The [Unofficial] Art of Conversation

“In my opinion…”

A statement that I have used waaaay too much in my life!

Having an opinion can be a blessing and a curse. I’ve heard many quotes about opinions, but the two that have stuck with me are:

Opinions are like buttholes, everyone’s got one and they stink.

And

Your opinions about leaders and situations don’t matter unless you are in the position to do something about them.

Living in the coffee shop world, I have learned the art of striking up a conversation with anyone. I would daily be pouring lattes for world travelers, surfers, stay-at-home moms, college students, doctors, judges, pastors, and deckhands on fishing boats (to name a few).

Every guest in my shop is as unique as the other; and we meet every race, religion, tribe, and tongue. Learning how to find common ground and the ability to talk about almost anything can be a challenge and requires a determination to always be learning. As I thought about the “Art of Conversation” here’s a few steps that I have put into practice in my own life.

First, you need a foundation of taking time daily to grow spiritually and hone your craft. These two elements will be the open door to connecting with people. Being full of the love of Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit is #1 above anything. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Then, whatever your job, skill, or occupation is, seek to become the best at what you do. This is an instant contact point and easy conversation starter. If you say you’re a barista but don’t really know much about coffee, then the conversation has the potential to quickly crash and burn. With the ability to articulately explain coffee from a well of knowledge and understanding, you will gain ground based on your position as an “authority” in a subject. You can apply the principle of this scenario and apply it to your profession.

Second, become one that listens. Don’t just hear sounds, but be someone that has “ears to hear”. Really listen to people! Be quick to listen and slow to speak! It’s said that when you are talking you are not learning. There is no way to even know how to connect with others unless you hear where they are coming from. Only once you listen can you find the entry point. [Tip: I listen first for differences in speech, like accents. “Where are you from?” is an awesome entry point.]

Then, third, develop the discipline to acquire information from everywhere. You can glean from news headlines, look up definitions to words, study maps, read books, watch sports video highlights, obtain differing view points on politics and social issues, etc. Information retention is not only good for the sharpness of your mind, but it’s the gasoline to the vehicle (conversation) that helps to connect. I’ve had some refer to me as a savant. I wouldn’t agree with this, though I get what they are saying. I think the more accurate word is a polymath (a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas). But really, I am just a lover of people; and because of that, I want to become interested in what others are interested in!

Lastly, when you ask someone a question, fight the urge to interject and cut off their answer with your own views. This is probably the most damaging to any future conversations! When others view you as the one who dominates every conversation, then they will cease to converse. Cutting off sentences and thoughts are no bueno! I view my calling in life to be one that builds bridges and connects people—both with each other and with Jesus. Nothing can burn bridges faster than your smelly butthole… oops, I mean opinion!

Ultimately, we must be careful about how generous we are with sharing our opinions. My mentor in business would always remind me, “Loose lips sink ships!” When we are quick to share our opinions and not listen to others, we often miss out on opportunities to connect with them. I’m a firm believer that nothing happens by chance. Every person you connect with happens for a reason. Let’s become more masterful with how we connect with those we encounter every day!

Disciplining our mouths to only share our opinions when others actually ask for them is a great habit! This will make room for more productive speech, like talking about the love of Christ, encouraging/building up others, bettering your craft, and speaking TRUTH.

But, what do I know… this is all just my opinion! 😉

What say you?

I’m listening…

Steve

Advertisements

What’s in a name?

Abraham Lincoln — 16th President of the United States of America

Autographs.

Why are they worth money?

What is it about some pen on paper, or silver paint marker on a photograph or Sharpie on a part of your body that suddenly says, “This is valuable.”

Is it the accomplishments of that individual?
Is it what the individual stands for, or once said, or is attempting to do?

Tiger Woods — Professional Golfer

I was thinking about this today while listening to ESPN radio on my way to the office.
The discussion was about the perception that Tiger Woods is a “jerk” because he won’t sign autographs.
(That is a different discussion for a different time.)

Why do we want autographs from people?
Aren’t they just people?

What is it about our culture that causes us to stand outside of a stadium, or tour bus, or in line at a bookstore so that we can get get the signature of someone on an object that will be framed, cherished, and/or never washed again?
(Ever hear someone say, “I’ll never wash this part of my body again!”? Please, sir… I’m begging you… wash it.)

I’ve done it.
When I was a teenager, I got Third Day‘s signatures on my t-shirt at the water park in the middle of the summer. I think Rebecca St. James, too. I never washed the t-shirt, and then threw it away when the once-white shirt was a golden yellow color.
I’ve bragged about my autographed copy of @ScottWilliamsChurch Diversity book. I tell people about it as if Scott and I are friends.
My most proud autographs are of two US Men’s National Soccer Team players; and more specifically, US Soccer Hall of Famer Marcello Balboa (who I played soccer with in the mall in North Attleboro, MA).

It’s as if it brings some sort of false validation.
It allows us to feel important for a moment… brag on our brushes with celebrity.
But, does that instantly add monetary value to ink?

    What about you?

  • Have you ever waited for an autograph?
  • How did it make you feel when you got it?
  • Have you ever been snubbed by a celebrity?
  • Have you since washed that part of your body?(You don’t have to share that part if you didn’t.)

Thinking about things of REAL value today…

Steve

Bono — Lead Singer of U2

Back in Black… or Red…

Over the last week or so I have slowly slipped back into the Social Media Universe. Yeah, I was gone for close to a month. Did you miss me? (Probably not.) I almost blogged/Tweeted/status-updated the fact that I was going silent for some time; but then I thought about the fact that I would be drawing attention to myself and the fast (which we shouldn’t do). So, I just unplugged.

This was difficult, considering that my full-time job is a Social Media Manager. It’s like fasting food while a waiter at a restaurant, or fasting caffeine while a barista… done both. So, the rule was no personal social media. No Facebook. No Twitter. No FourSquare. No Instagram. No Path. You get the point. (Note: During this time I did break the fast for two tweets. They were on consecutive Sundays. The first was when Tim Tebow beat the Steelers in overtime. The second was when the New England Patriots beat Tim Tebow the following week.)

During this time a lot has happened personally. I am no longer am a barista at The Drowsy Poet Coffee Company, I now work a full 40 hours a week at Creation Today, our launch team for our new church plant is into the double digits with a young family it he mix, and my wife is pregnant. Okay, that last part is not true.

It’s amazing how sensitive you become to the Holy Spirit when you begin to remove distractions from your life. I have noticed how much I “connect” myself to others via all these different platforms, yet in the process, tend to wane in the one “connection” that I truly can’t live without. My desire and longing for the Holy Spirit, and His ever-growing power in my life, has increased beyond any level than it has ever been before. I say that like there is a meter, or measuring stick that measures the depth of yearning. You can’t quantify it with any measuring tool, but it is something that is clearly either more or less; and interestingly enough, you only really notice when it is more. In English… The more we set time aside for communication with God, the more sensitive we become to the Holy Spirit; and the more sensitive we become to the Holy Spirit, the more we realize that we lived so long less sensitive to Him.

Not really sure why I just wrote that. This was not planned. Maybe that was for you? (I think that was a demonstration of what I was talking about… I honestly didn’t plan on blogging about this today…)

When a fire is burning in your belly, you know it. That fire has been fanned and I want more or God. That’s really what it comes down to, and not really sure where that is going to lead; but I’m excited to see what happens next.

Living in anticipation

Steve

Where hindsight is 0/0

There has been a lot of news recently regarding past mistakes, moral failures, mismanagement of resources, and even death. There are some underlying issues to all these events that are making the headlines, like greed, selfishness, lust, pride, and even fear. Ultimately, though, there is a single, deep-rooted issue that influences people’s daily decisions; and that is sin.

Joe Paterno (now former head coach of Penn State football) was fired because of his awareness of the sick, demented staff member that chose to sodomize young boys, and his choosing to nothing about it. People are in an uproar, and are begging for the public to forgive him. He DID NOTHING TO STOP IT!

Greece, and much of the EU (and much of the world, for that matter) is falling apart financially because of greed and selfishness of both political leaders and even the people of the country. *There are people in Greece that are living on government supported and funded social programs that are making more money not working than my wife and I are making together—she with a full-time job and myself with two jobs!

Steve Jobs just passed away after battling cancer. The world mourned his death, and there were endless stories of his impact and genius. (I pre-ordered his biography, and it’s since been delivered.) What is even more sad in the story of Steve Jobs is that, from what we know, he was not a follower of Christ—he was Buddhist.

There are many, many other headlines that we could list here, like the accusations against Herman Cain regarding sexual misconduct in the past; the Occupy Wall Street, Oakland, and other cities fiasco; President Obama’s “live-mic” slip-up; Michael Jackson’s doctor’s “guilty” verdict; etc.

What sets the story of Steve Jobs apart from the other headlines is something powerful, something deep, something non-reversable. JoePa can be forgiven. Greece, and the world, can see a turn-around, eventually… hopefully. All these happenings can experience resolution, restoration, and even revolution. But Mr. Steve Jobs can no longer experience any of that. They say that “hindsight is 20/20”. On this side of eternity (that’s a Christianese phrase I think Jon Acuff would like), we can look back and see the mistakes or misjudgments, and make the necessary changes in order to see something good come from something evil. But on the other side of eternity, meaning after we die, that option is no longer a possibility. That is where hindsight is 0/0… it is no more. With all the good Steve Jobs did—his genius, leadership, world-changing inventions, challenging the world to Think Different—none of that matters to him now. All that stuff is left here on earth, and he is now faced with the reality of eternity.

I’ve been meditating on this Scripture verse lately:

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Mark 8:36

  • What am I striving for that will impact eternity for good, and not evil?
  • What do I see when I look back?
  • Is there anything that I need to do repent of, learn from, and bring change to?

Let’s pray that our hindsight sees the grace, mercy, and love of Christ; and may that bring resolution, restoration, and revolution to our lives today. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Let’s choose what is right today.

Seeing more clearly…

Steve

Solemnly written on an iPad, and edited on an iMac…

Book Review: Radical

The book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by David Platt, is one heck of a book. But before we get into this book, there is a note that needs to be made:

  • This book is NOT for people that have no desire to change. If you are comfortable with uneventful, mundane, status-quo Christianity, and think it’s your job to argue doctrines and methods (yet not be passionate about serving your Savior Jesus Christ), then you will not like this book.

The book starts with challenging your view of God and how much value you place in your faith as a Christian. Platt doesn’t waste any time, and goes right for the jugular. As the pastor of a megachurch, he found himself being challenged by the fact that everything the American Christian culture represents—that same culture that drove him to build a megachurch, and that same culture that measures success by the size of the crowds, the size of the budget, and the size of the building—seems to be contradictory to what Jesus lived and taught. Platt shares his personal journey and struggle as he was reminded if the times when Jesus would say radical things, like, “Anyone who wants to be my disciple must eat of my flesh and drink of my blood.” Statements like this didn’t build a huge movement over night. In fact, it mostly drive the crowds away! The only ones remaining were His true disciples. So, now, he was faced with having to answer two questions for himself: 1. Was I going to believe Jesus?, and 2. Was I going to obey Jesus? Even though the radical statements of Jesus ended with few that were willing to follow, the result was a world that was flipped upside-down!

The author shares stories about how he and his church started to change the way they viewed the world; and how it impacted their desire to serve in capacities never before imagined. The transformation that began to take place in their hearts and in their community was incredible. You will be challenged in the major areas of your life—money, time, work, family, and your faith. The stories of the countless pastors and Christians from around the world who are living radical lives of faith will convict you. By the end of the book, you will be thinking of ways that you could be used in radical ways for the glory of God—that others would come to know Him as their Savior!

Man, I was so challenged by this book! I found myself spending many times, while reading, having to stop and take a moment to reflect, or repent, or even write down things that I had just read. I really appreciated the author’s honesty and wiliness to self-examine before he wrote a book about this stuff. Too many pastors, ministers, college professors, and regular ol’ Christians traffic unlived truths—our speech is full of ought-to’s and opinions on how one should do things, yet an honest self-evaluation would find that we often don’t even live up the expectations of our own sermonizing… a.k.a. We are hypocrites. Platt gives you a transparent, inside look into his journey of rethinking, and changing, his own understanding and fleshing out of the faith he claims to obtain—radical faith found in a radical man named Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Church Diversity

When I saw on Twitter that @ScottWilliams was writing a book called Church Diversity: Sunday, the Most Segregated Day of the Week, I thought, “Cool! It’ll probably be a good read; but it won’t really relate to me — I’m not a racist.” I mean, the last two churches I have been a part of are diverse, after all. The church I’m in now is small (running about 50 on a Sunday morning) and there is an old black woman and her granddaughter, an Hispanic couple, and an Asian woman (married to a white guy) — we’re doing good with our minority-to-white person ratio! And then I read the book, and discovered that church diversity is more than maintaining a ratio of ethnicity in your local church body. So, what’s my dark, little secret?

Please watch the following clip and then read on.

So, about that “dark, little secret”. It didn’t really hit me until I was well into the book, and was reading a letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the letter, he speaks to the racist heritage of the Assemblies of God… Bum, bum, bum! That was it. I have been raised Assemblies, and am ordained Assemblies! OH, SNAP! I represent a racist heritage! Great…

The truth is, if you were raised in the United States of America, chances are you have a connection to some sort of racism or segregation. And an even sadder truth (is “sadder” even a word?) is that as Christians in America, we are still seeing it happen week in and week out.

  • When you go to church, do you see a church staff that represents the different races, classes, and ethnicities that are present in your community?
  • Are there evident attempts by your family, church, or social group that clearly states “Everyone Welcome“?

If the answer is “No”, then this book is a must read (even if it is “Yes”, still read it). It will rock your world, and cause you to view diversity in the church not just as a cool idea, but as a must. After all, Jesus, in the Great Commission, says to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:19), not just the ones that look like us.

Learning to love like Christ — which is inclusive…

Steve

New Things!

Well, it’s official!

I have launched my own start-up company (thanks to the help and inspiration of a good friend Mohan Karulkar, the Owner and CEO of copyMo.)

My new company is called SocialSteve. The mission of SocialSteve is: Bridging the communication gap in a Web 2.0 world.

You can check out what SocialSteve is all about by going to the website, or checking out the Facebook Fan Page. Don’t forget to “Like” us!

New things…

steve