One of my favorite hobbies (if I can call it that!) is getting to know people’s stories. We are trained to only see the cover, aren’t we? We take a quick and nearly subconscious inventory of the person standing in front of us- maybe their clothes, facial features, who is with them, what their voice sounds like, perhaps we try to guess their age, current mood, or their profession. In a few seconds, we’ve put them in a box, passed judgement, and scariest of all- we’ve done it all without much thought.
We might skim a few of their pages, but to find the treasures within our fellow humans, to dive into the chapters of their story, we must move beyond the excuses.
Here are four common excuses I have when it comes to starting up or staying in a conversation with someone.
- I don’t have enough time.
- I don’t know what to say.
- I’m too bogged down with my own cares and concerns.
- It’s not really worth it.
I’ve found these excuses to be constant companions when it comes to building relationships. Do you have similar ones?
They follow me around to every interaction, even with those I love the most, like my children and my husband. Since they’re not disappearing anytime soon, here’s how I’ve determined to cripple their paralyzing effect on me.
I don’t have enough time.
Let’s just set the record straight- there will never be enough time.
But what if we start with the time we do have and give it away freely and joyfully? I believe a few minutes is enough to spark a divine connection or a life-changing encounter.
Notice the minutes you have, keep your head up as you go along your way. This could look like stopping for the grocery store clerk, the person across from you at the coffee shop, or your children. With one, two, three minutes of your time you could…
Offer up a silent prayer of blessing over them.
Smile and give them a compliment.
Or ask them a question.
Truly, it doesn’t take much to practice reading beyond the cover of the people around us.
Which brings me to excuse number 2.
I don’t know what to say.
Here’s something to remember next time you attempt to start up a conversation and are curious about someone: you don’t need to say anything at all, instead listen.
You can start with the usual question. How are you doing today? If they give the typical response, good, probe one more time. So, what happened today that made you feel that way? Then practice listening. Yes, it takes practice. It’s been said that people can usually turn the conversation back to themselves in about 3 seconds. Take note of your tendency to do this next time you are with someone.
I’ll conclude by saying this- give yourself permission to talk about the weather.
Coming from someone who gets itchy during small talk, engaging with another human being about the beautiful fall day is better than having said nothing at all. And who knows what might come up when we simply take the time acknowledge the person in front of us!
I’m too bogged down with my own cares and concerns.
Oh goodness yes. This one is my go-to, one-size-fits-all kind of excuse. I turn inward when life is difficult. You too? And when was the last time life wasn’t difficult? There’s always something stretching us, causing friction, or disrupting our peace on the inside. Although it feels counter-intuitive to me, this works- talk to someone when you feel bogged down, overwhelmed, stressed, discouraged.
When we take genuine interest in someone else’s story, it’s clinical proven that our own pains begin to heal too.
Helping others is free therapy people, a win-win, and we don’t need to feel an ounce of guilt over this one.
And number four.
It’s not worth it.
I’ve moved every two years over the last nine years, and in each place I’ve made the decision to give myself regardless. I refuse to consider the fact that either one of us could pack up and leave tomorrow. As I look back on all the relationships my husband and I have built, even if for a season, every single one of them has left a significant mark on our life.
If there’s just one risk we take in this adventure with God, let it be on relationships. In Romans 5:8 Paul reminds us, “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”
Did you hear that? He put His love on the line…and…we were of no use whatever to him. God took a risk on us. He didn’t see us as primarily useful to His plan. There’s no way we could help Him out, yet He gave His whole heart to us. He got to know us at our worst for no other reason than He loved us.
What if we carried His perspective into our conversations?
Instead of viewing our fellow humans as investments, resources, or connections, what if they were a simply a friend with a story that needs to be heard? The end.
Which of these is your favorite excuse to use when you’re around people…we all have one!
Think about how God has surprised you in relationships…how have people impacted you in unexpected ways, what quick conversations have led to deeper friendships?