Many of us find it difficult to open a conversation with strangers or people we only know only slightly; but when we do, it can often have enormous benefits. Let me give you three specific examples of benefits I recently received.
When I was at a business conference this last weekend, I was in the room full of people. Between each hour lecture, we’d have a short break. For the first couple of hours, we each kept to ourselves. As the day progressed however, we began to open up and converse. It’s amazing the wonderful things I’ve learned about several of my neighbors. If I had not opened up a conversation with them, I would have never known.
Neighbor number one is an individual who spent time in Africa helping people improve their lives. She gave some very interesting details about life in Africa, which included some of the challenges that the population faces in that country. One example was of how dangerous some of the insect life is. There were things I learned about Africa that I hadn’t known previously. This person was smart enough to document her experiences in a journal.
Neighbor number two, I learned this woman manages a blog on her choir. Apparently she’s a member of a semi-pro choir who has their performances videotaped. Members of this choir can review the performances so they can improve. Comments and observations between the choir members also contribute to the group’s evolution. What a wonderful and unique idea for a blog. This is an example of how one person can create a blog that can help multiple people is delightful. She mentioned how people outside the choir will chance upon her blog and find it of interest. If other people were to do a blog of various other groups and organizations to improve, think how useful that could be.
Neighbor number three: this person is probably the youngest peer at the workshop that I met. She is very heavily involved in the social media of Twitter. While in conversation with her, I learned there are a number of Twitter accounts that are very relevant to my career. Had I not taken the time to converse with her, I wouldn’t have known about her source of knowledge.
The workshops, I attended on Saturday were very useful, but the three new contacts were just as beneficial. They provided knowledge than expand my own horizon on multiple topics.
Maybe Saturday’s experience, can teach me to make more of an effort to get to know other strangers. Or maybe when I attend church, I might make more of an effort to communicate with somebody that I don’t know very well.
Teaching children to open up
This lesson could also be of benefit to our children as they learn to relate to their peers.
In the next family devotional or family home evening you have with your kids, and you want to teach an important principle, why not touch upon this topic of friendliness? In such a discussion, you might give an example of your past life of how you met your now best friend. It may have been someone that you didn’t like at first. It may have been someone you felt shared none of your interests. Only later did you find out that both of you had many things in common, thus making you best friends. The advantage of sharing personal life experience is that children love hearing about the youth of their parents.
Teach by example
Friendliness no matter what age we are is a wonderful skill. This would make a wonderful topic to share with the family or class that you teach. In some, family devotionals or home evenings, many parents and teachers will use a game or object lesson to teach an important principle. Here’s a possible lesson to teach friendship.
For the object lesson, Opening the box, we will need the following list of supplies:
A popular well-known book
A popular movie on VHS or DVD
A printout of a good recipe for meal
A piece of fruit
A branch of a tree
Several pieces of nature such as a beautiful rock
Water in a bottle
Put all these items in boxes.
Place a person in the middle of the room. This will be a member of the family or a member of the class if you are teaching this lesson in Sunday school. No one in the room is to know what is in the boxes except for the person who prepared the boxes. Have the various boxes assigned to each member of the class or family and have them sit at various points of the room.
Have one person sit in the center of the room and ask that person to guess what might be in a box. When they can’t identify the items, let them move to the next box. Once all the boxes have been guessed at, have each family members or class members take a turn and open their box. Have them take the object out and describe the characteristics of the item. If it’s a branch of the tree, maybe he or she can lead a discussion with the rest of the group on the attributes and usefulness of trees. Some examples might include trees for shade, bearing fruit or providing wood to make furniture, etc. Have each box opened and the item discussed.
Just like the hidden items in a box have their secrets so do strangers we don’t know. We may not know about a good movie or a good book unless we watch that movie or read that book. Sometimes we don’t know what good books to read unless we get a recommendation from a friend. When we open a conversation with someone and have a genuine interest in them, we can learn interesting details about them.
Perhaps each family member or class member can be given an assignment before you meet again: Everyone is to find and establish a new friend. Your family or class might even devote an evening to the techniques of starting up a conversation or establishing a friendship. You might even consider some practice sessions.