Right from the early days of Peter and I talking about what we wanted our family to be like, talking together was high on our priority list, high on our goal. So it is no wonder that being intentional about family conversations has been a part of our family culture.
Apparently there are three levels of conversation and I can see these three levels happening in our family conversations as well as when I go out socially.
- Level 1 – People
- Level 2 – Events and happenings
- Level 3 – Ideas
I know in our family times when conversations dribbles into silliness we generally have dwelled for too long on level one and two. It is when we hit level three that we have significant conversations. Can you tell where conversation sits in your home?
To be honest, we need all three levels to maintain relationships. In a sense it is small talk. We talk about our day, the people we met, the things we did. In our home, especially now with older kids, we all go different ways, involved in different groups and activities. It is good to catch-up.
When we go to parties, small talk is what eases us into any social situation. And that is good but a party that keeps conversation at that level is shallow. When we talk about people and events we keep ourselves at arm’s length – we are sharing only the public side of ourselves. We may talk about the scrapbooking or quilting that we did – and that tells the listener something of our hobbies, but it is safe, and it is generally from the perspective of something that happened in our life, something we did.
This is why the old adage of not talking about politics, religion and money at the dinner table was the social norm – the goal was to keep conversation safe! These things (politics, religion, money) are ideas; your ideas reflect your beliefs, and your beliefs are you. When you share them, you share you. It may not always be safe, but when we do share these deeper things we are building deeper relationships.
One of the things that I regularly do is consider a topic of conversation that I can bring to the table before we sit down. Yes, we have our small chit-chat, sharing about our day. We have our times of laughing as we entertain each other with silly stories. But it doesn’t need to stay there. If just one person can be creative enough to bring another topic to the table, then you can have stimulating dinner conversation. Are you prepared to do that in your family?
“Great minds discuss ideas;
Average minds discuss events;
Small minds discuss people.”
– Author unknown
(although it’s often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt)
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