Dialogues of the Deaf
I am sick and tired of people who talk their way through an entire conversation without EVER asking a single question of anyone else around the table.
I've got a simple solution. It's not rocket science. STOP TALKING.
Ask a question!
Not long ago, I was traveling away from home and had to participate in a conference call. So, in modern road warrior fashion, I grabbed a coffee, an outdoor table at a nearby Starbucks, and logged in. Everything went fine until about halfway through the call two other men —one in his 50's or 60's, the other in his mid-thirties— pulled up chairs at the table next to mine.
I had my earbuds in and was focused on my call, but I could still tell that these men were having some kind of conversation about the Bible and the Christian life. But here’s the deal, the older man talked the entire time! And, by entire time, I literally mean he never stopped talking. He never asked a question. He failed to solicit any feedback. There was no discussion, no curiosity, no shared learning, no mutuality. Just one big verbal dump truck intent on burying the other guy.
These kind of mentoring relationships with next gen leaders are my lane. It scares me to think this conversation was likely portrayed as some kind of discipleship or mentoring appointment. The talking head probably left that appointment feeling great about all the information he had just delivered.
But, what about the other man? When I was done and got up to leave, I got a good look at the faces of these two men. The poor guy being buried alive by this non-stop verbal diarrhea looked exhausted. Trapped even. It was all I could do to keep from walking over to interrupt the older man and scream, "Stop talking."
Listen to the conversations of our world, between nations as well as those between couples. They are for the most part dialogues of the deaf.*
Just to prove this is the norm rather than the exception, here's another example. A mutual friend arranged lunch for me to meet another pastor in our area. We were there to get to know each other, to discover shared passions, and to explore the potential for ministry collaboration. At least that’s what I thought would happen. Wrong.
As soon as he sat down, this dude started talking and never once came up for air. He never asked a single question. Never expressed an ounce of curiosity. He failed to discover anything new. It was as stunning as it was infuriating.
Here’s my point. Questions are powerful. They create stimulating conversation and the possibility of new learning. They communicate respect to others. They breathe life into a relationship. And, they open up the dynamic of mutual discovery.
If you are always talking you have no idea what gems of insight or depth of relationship you are blockading. So, let's make it really simple. Don’t be that guy (or gal.) Choose the path less traveled. Ask questions! It will change everything and might just be more fun.
Paul Tournier said it this way. “Most conversations are merely dialogs of the deaf.” My twist on his insight is that all too often we act like airplanes circling in a holding pattern never coming in for a landing. We burn all our fuel searching for an opportunity to launch into our next monologue.
I dare you. Change it up. Next time you are sitting with someone, ask more questions. Listen to their replies. See what you discover. Become a leader who is loved for what they ask about rather than what they talk about. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
FYI: Listening can be healing and empowering all by itself.
(* Paul Tournier,To Understand Each Other (Atlanta: John Knox, 1967), 8.)