That’s one of the reasons I enjoy this time of year. We gather around the table and retell the story of our faith. We share meals and memories.
But the truth is, sometimes I wish these conversations could go deeper. I wish we could get beyond the work-is-fine-and-the-kids-are-good answers. I wish we could know each other better. For several years I’ve made a living out of getting people to talk about themselves, so I thought I’d share some suggestions:
Always start with the easy questions, and then work your way up to open-ended questions. Pause. Give people a chance to collect their thoughts. Once they’ve answered, ask a follow-up question.
What interests you the most about social studies? Why is that band so important to you? What do you like most about gardening?
While they are answering, listen. Lean toward them. Look at them. Don’t worry about what you are going to say next. It isn’t about you. Just. Listen. Stay in one conversation at a time so you can focus – and that means putting away your phone, too.
If you disagree or if you don’t understand, don’t show it on your face. Give them the chance to explain themselves before you send a signal that you disapprove or you’ll shut down the conversation before it really gets started. Then, if you’d genuinely like to learn more, ask respectful questions.
I’ve never thought of looking at immigration that way, could you tell me more? Could you walk me through an example?
Treat people as fascinating – because they are. And when it is your turn to talk about yourself, tell your story, too. People would really like to know what you remember about historical events. They do want to hear why you believe the way you do.
You’ll all walk away from the table richer than before.