by Kenneth Justice
~ I noticed that his eyes had started to wander and I knew he had clearly lost interest in the conversation….
With Christmas just days away, many of the people at the café’s I hang out at are talking about all the various things related to the holiday and yesterday was no exception; a young man sat down at my table in the morning and was telling me about his various ‘beefs’ with Christmas, “Kenneth, I can’t stand the commercialism of it, Christmas is nothing more than a time when the stores can make a ton of money off of innocent people who don’t even have enough in their savings to be buying that expensive Hi-Definition T.V. or some other ridiculously over-priced item” he said
Our conversation did not escape the attention of the older man who was sitting next to us…who from past experience I knew to be a minister from one of the local churches, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but hear what you two were talking about” the older man said….now, if you know me you would know that I’m not bothered at all when other people join my table conversations……unfortunately, this particular minister was one of those, know-it-all types….do you know the kinds? He doesn’t really have back-and-forth conversations but rather more-or-less gives long monologues…..for about fifteen minutes or so the minister told the young man that Christmas was indeed not supposed to be about materialism and talked about the pagan origins of Saturnalia and all the other rigmarole which many of us are familiar with…….it was somewhere around the 8 minutes mark of the minister’s monologue that I looked over at the young man and I noticed that his eyes had started to wander and I knew he had clearly lost interest in the conversation….
This article is definitely not meant to attack the kind old minister who simply wanted to give a little historical lesson about the origins of Christmas; he really is a nice old guy. Unfortunately, he’s not all that aware of where people are coming from…….the average person at a coffee shop (or anywhere really) doesn’t want to sit down with some stranger who gives them a lecture similar to what they remember from their school days. There is a time and place to be a know-it-all and when your hanging out in casual conversation with others; is clearly NOT the time.
The truth of the matter is that most people simply don’t want to be lectured. Do you remember what it was like when you were younger and your parents talked down-at-you? Children don’t usually like it anymore than anyone else does, and the conversations I remember liking the best from my youth were the ones in which my mom and dad talked to me in a simple back-and-forth manner; as though they were talking to anyone of their friends……do you know what I mean? It feels good when people treat us like ‘equals’….we tend to be more interested in the conversation when we feel as though we are more apart of the conversation.
When I was younger I tended to talk to people like a know-it-all….and this was one of the hardest habits I have had to break. There are so many times in conversations where I feel as though ‘I know the answer’ or ‘I know what to say’…but learning to bite my tongue and convey my thoughts in a way that other people will best receive them has been a tricky art that I have had to learn.
Nobody really teaches you the art of conversation; some of us are raised in better environments than other, where we are surrounded by adults who are really good at holding conversations with others…..but there are many of us who were raised by people who simply talk-at others, and we have to figure out the art of conversation all on our own.
I’ve been thinking about the art of conversation a lot lately because of the upcoming Christmas holiday. A lot of people think that Jesus was some dude who walked around talking at people…and lecturing people everywhere he went. But when I read the gospel of Mark I don’t get that impression at all. The image I see of Jesus has more to do with a guy who really knew how to relate to other people,
—-) he felt the pain that people in abusive relationships feel
—-) he understood what it was like to be a single mother in a world that ignores you
—-) he related to the poor and the people at the bottom of the economic chain
For me, when I read the gospel of Mark I see this guy that didn’t simply walk around talking at people…but rather he was first and foremost an expert listener; he had the ability to truly listen to people and understand where they were coming from and that was why when he finally did open his mouth to speak; people were totally willing to listen to what he had to say…..
Well, after the minister talked for a few minutes longer the young man who was sitting with us thanked us for the conversation and took off……perhaps he and I will have coffee one day in the future….
until then I will be sitting here with my coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society