You know what might be the hardest part of the New Evangelization for me?
Talking to people.
Which is funny seeing how I am involved in theater, ministry, and generally make it my business to talk to people. I am not a natural conversationalist. It is very hard to carry out the mission of the New Evangelization if I do not learn how to come out of myself and get to know people.
It’s like Jesus did this on purpose!
I am inspired by Lauren’s, from Things I Teach My Children, guest post on Not So Formulaic. The post focuses on raising our kids to be “thoughtful conversationalists”. I started thinking about how often do we adults truly put those skills into practice. Do we even have the skill of conversation in our adult repertoire? When was the last time I had a conversation that did not just brush the surface of events and ideas?
We cannot get away with a life of surface level interactions. Without deeper conversations there is a limit to our human connection. I am not saying everyone needs to have deep conversations with everyone they meet, but I strongly reject the notion that women and mothers do not need to bother re-gaining the skills of conversation.
These skills have not likely been lost on purpose. There are some mental barriers to grapple with before we are willing to give conversation a try again.
“We don’t have anything in common.”
It is amazing how often we shut down the idea of having substantial conversations because we just telepathically know we have nothing in common with the other person. What I think is really being said here is “that person is too different from me.”
They might be a lot older, or younger.
Work in a very different field.
Be a different religion.
Have an opposite personality.
Maybe all of the above. But they might also be the difference we need to hear.
“I cannot say what I really think.”
If the conversation starts to stray toward religion, politics, or other hot topics it can be very tempting to shut down. Maybe you fear alienating the other person. Becoming the butt of jokes. Or are just plain embarrassed. You generally feel like saying what you really believe is not helpful.
Yes, saying it insensitively is not helpful, but saying nothing at all is not helping either. I find it helpful to listen to priests and speakers who have a talent for apologetics and take note of how they approach difficult topics. It tends to be done in a way that says truth but without using the same old tired talking points that the other person has become numb, or hostile, towards.
“I don’t have the time/energy.”
This is one I hear from stay at home moms a lot, but it likely applies to everyone working a very time intensive job. When you are on the hamster wheel of work, survive, eat, sleep, it does feel nigh impossible to think of spending what little time you have giving to another person.
The beautiful thing about making the effort to have these interactions is that it is not just about giving. A conversation would not be much of a conversation if it was solely one sided. This is about valuing the people who have been gifted into your life and acknowledging that you continue to need human interaction.
“I don’t know how to begin.”
Probably the most honest hurtle out of all of these, how to begin!
Begin with listening and following up when you hear something that intrigues you.
Begin with your own story! Learning how to open up and share the little stories in our lives is a fundamental part of recovering the art of conversation.
Just beginning is the important part. Even if you think you mess up, keep trying. Someone is listening.