the weblog of Alan Knox

Can we talk?

Posted by on Nov 30, 2007 in community, fellowship, love | 5 comments

Have you seen the Kleenex commercials with the tag line “Let it out”? The man on the street with a box of tissue and big sofa can apparently get anyone to talk. This ad campaign has me thinking about communication and conversation.

My wife, Margaret, has always said that I can talk to anyone. In a way, she’s correct, because I’ve learned to ask people about themselves. People like to talk about themselves. They like to talk about their families and their past and their home town and their favorite sports team and their hobbies. So, as I learn about people, I simply ask them questions about the topics that they bring up. In other words, I let people talk about themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t ask people about themselves simply so that they will talk. I am genuinely interested. I like to hear people’s stories and I like to hear how God is working in their lives, and so I ask people about themselves. I’ve learned alot about people that they probably would not normally express simply by asking questions about them.

Occasionally, I get emails from people who read my blog. That’s a good thing. I put my email address on my sidebar several months ago because I wanted people to be able to communicate with me if they wanted to ask questions and make a statement without doing so publicly.You’ve seen some of those emails published here as “guest blog” posts. I always ask permission before I publish anyone’s email. When I get these emails and answer any questions that I can answer, I always ask the person if they would share something about themselves. Almost everyone who emails me responds to my question. Again, people like to talk about themselves.

I think that this is the key to the Kleenex ad campaign. Kleenex knows that people like to talk about themselves, and they are simply giving people an outlet to do just that. It works, by the way. Give people an opportunity, and they will gladly express themselves. Of course, someone has to be willing to listen and genuinely interested in hearing what the person has to say.

This type of communication and conversation is very important. For believers, most of the “one anothers” of Scripture are based on some type of communication. In order to consider one another, stir up one another to love and good works, encourage one another, submit to one another, etc. we must be willing to listen to what one another has to say. Perhaps “listen to one another” is the foundational unspoken “one another” of Scripture. But, I think, “listen to one another” is actually assumed in “love one another”. If we love one another, we will want to hear what the other person thinks, feels, dreams, experiences, believes, fears, etc.

But, this is where the rub comes. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. But, who is willing to suppress their own desire in order to allow another person to talk about themselves? You see, listening to one another actually goes against human nature. We like to talk about ourselves; we don’t automatically like to listen to other people talk about themselves. We like to control the conversation; we don’t necessarily like to listen to other people talk. We like to choose the categories and topics; we don’t necessarily like for other people to drift into “taboo” areas.

In reality, we are less like the guy in the Kleenex commercial, and more like Mike Myers’ character Linda Richman in the Saturday Night Live skit “Coffee Talk”. Linda liked to control the conversation – which usually revolved around Barbara Streisand, her favorite person. It didn’t matter who was the guest on Linda’s fake talk show, they always talked about Linda’s interests. Even when Linda got too emotional and couldn’t talk, she wanted to control the conversation by offering a topic. If you’re too young to have seen this skit, or if you don’t remember it, trust me, it was good, like buttah.

I think this may help explain why many relationships are rather shallow. Everyone wants to talk about themselves, but few are willing to listen. Also, I think this explains why unbelievers do not want to talk to Christians. When a Christian says to an unbeliever, “Can we talk?” the unbeliever knows that the Christian really means, “I want to tell you why you’re wrong and what you should believe”. In fact, I think many people have learned the correct answers to certain questions just in case a Christians decides to “talk” to them. Some of these people probably even think they are Christians because they know these correct answers. But, since so few people are willing to listen, those people may have never truly expressed themselves and their own beliefs.

Can we consider others better than ourselves and humble ourselves in order to listen instead of talk? I’m certainly not perfect in this area, and often find myself trying to control a conversation. But, thinking through things like this help me to remember to God values people, and I should as well. God listens to my prayers, and I should be willing to listen to other people too.

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic…


5 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-30-2007

    For anyone, like me, who hasn’t seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njE8fVHBUmY

    Alan,

    I came across the principles you are talking about through John Maxwell and Dale Carnegie. I have to say I am a complete unatural at it. When I first heard what they had to say, it used to wind me up how little people listened! I knew in myself that I was supposed to do the listening, but that didn’t stop my old nature demanding to be listened to!

    I try to remember but I forget. When I remember it works, it is so nice to see people enjoying being able to talk about themselves, but most of the time I forget. Thank you for reminding me.

    Jesus said that where any two agree, I agree with you that this is a good thing and therefore ask the Lord that He make us both better at it, in fact buttah! Amen!

    Richard

  2. 11-30-2007

    Alan, As Richard said, this is “How to win friends and influence people 101.” But one thing that helped me in this is beginning to see the Imago Dei in people. It radically altered the equation for me. I wasn’t just seeing or hearing people. I was seeing my Father’s expression in people.

  3. 12-1-2007

    Alan,

    You mentioned some of the “one another” verses in this post. The other day I was doing a study and we mentioned “7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7. That verse grew in me and I saw that when we come aganist one another if we are not doing that then “prefering one another” becomes a mask. However, if we are truly casting “all” of our cares on Him then it doesn’t matter what anyone does it doesn’t “concern” me.

    The word “anxieties” can also be translated “cares” and comes from a word which literally means “those things that pull at us!” It follows “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” and has the condition “because He cares for you.” I call it a condition, normally we would say that a promise has a condition, eg, “God will do this if you will do that.” Here God’s care is unconditional, but we can only cast our cares on Him if we truly believe that He cares for us. To not cast our cares on Him is to think that we can do a better job of taking care of our anxieties than He can!

    As you know I recently had a revelation that everyone needs my mercy and not my judgment, I would say this is the next step for me, to take anything that is pulling at me and throw it onto Him. I’ve heard the teaching on casting our cares onto Him, but it’s about time I kept it up!

    Richard

  4. 12-1-2007

    This was a good post but can we talk about something else?

  5. 12-1-2007

    Richard,

    Thanks for the link to the SNL skit. I should have provided that for those who are not familiar with “Coffee Talk”.

    I do the same thing. I know that I should listen, but I sometimes end up talking more than I listen. I needed this reminder as well. Thanks also for adding the part about “anxieties”. It goes along with this post very well.

    Jonathan,

    Yes, one important aspect of listening is to recognize the worth of the individual and to care about what they are saying. We can simply “listen” to show what a great person we are, but if we’re not actually paying attention, then I’m not sure we’re valuing the individual – and God’s image in them – like we should.

    Mike,

    Sure. What do you want to talk about?

    -Alan

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Assembling of the Church | Can We Talk? - [...] (of all things), I started thinking about talking and listening. I wrote a blog post called “Can We Talk?” …