Communication/My Relationships How to Master the Art of Conversation by Rachel Penate Just recently, I realized there is a common denominator between the following: Flying on an Airplane, Waiting Rooms, and Grocery Lines. Take a wild guess… no really, don’t scroll down yet… you should guess… The answer: Picking up my phone and scrolling aimlessly through whatever I can. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. That 21st-century-reflex we are so embarrassed, yet comforted by. That time-filler that teaches us pointless trivia and random facts about an acquaintance from that “one time we did that one thing”… It’s a bit humorous when I think back on those moments, or even, when I catch myself in the midst of them. I laugh because I’m quickly reminded by how uncomfortable I’ve become with eye-contact, small talk, or just being myself – a smile on my face, no screen to hide behind. I don’t usually send that random text to a friend because I want to but because I feel the need to guard myself from the world around me. Why is it that we fear this type of vulnerability? What is it that we are worried about? For me, it’s usually laziness. Why should I invest in someone I don’t know I’ll ever see again? But, ironically it’s usually those conversations with strangers that become the most personal and bear a lot of fruit in my life. For you, it may not be the case. Maybe you have a difficult time being vulnerable with family members, or even close friends. Maybe you have a hard time expressing your frustrations rationally and coherently to your teacher, or doctor, or coach. Whatever the case may be, there really is an art to conversation. And, regardless of how good or bad we are at it, we all have some room for growth. This summer, while your goal may be to grow the number of followers on social media, I challenge you instead to grow in authentic relationships with those close to you – to invest in real, authentic, meaningful relationships. So, in light of my challenge, here are a few tips to engage in more confident and fruitful conversation. 1. Put away the technology. Simple as that. The more we practice authentic conversation, the less we feel we need our screens. Perhaps for you that means turning off your phone, or putting it in a different room altogether when you don’t need it and especially when you are hanging out with family or friends. Maybe even (if able), leaving it at home completely. If this is difficult for you or you want a greater challenge, I definitely suggest fasting from technology every so often. The weekends that I turn off my phone are the ones I feel the most connected to everyone around me. Especially God. 2. Don’t be afraid of “awkward.” It’s going to happen. You’re going to say something awkward. Just let it happen, embrace it. Like any skill that needs to be refined, we’re going to struggle a little bit. There is no edit button on the words that we say out loud after we’ve said them, this is both a scary yet beautiful thing. Be confident in who you are and what you have to say. 3) There is no edit button. Speaking of no edit button… do think before you speak. Sometimes, especially if we’re having a serious or emotional conversation, we may be tempted to say something we are probably going to regret later down the road, perhaps something that may hurt a relationship in the long run. Be honest, but also charitable in what you say and how you say it. 4) Listen Have you ever begun a conversation with someone only to realize it has quickly become all about them? Or realized that you’re starting to become parched because of how much you’ve been driving the conversation? A good conversation lends itself to being just that: A Conversation! Part of what creates a one-sided conversation is when questions are not proposed and listening doesn’t happen. Ask questions. And, then listen. Actually listen. Affirm what they have said, ask more questions, listen, affirm, answer their questions, and repeat. Okay, maybe not as simple as that, but you get the idea. 5) Be courageous enough to have the hard conversations in person. My high school boyfriend broke up with me over the phone. True story. It was 100% unnecessary (we lived a few blocks away from one another) and 100% lame. The more we practice disconnecting from our phones and conversing with one another authentically in person, the easier the hard conversations will become. We owe it to one another to work out our problems in person. It shows the other two things: One, that the other means more to us than the text on our screens, and two, we are courageous enough to be vulnerable when it is necessary. Alright, now close the computer or put down that phone and go have an authentic and amazing conversation with someone you love.