Monday, July 2, 2018

Conversation Topic Options

In India, a common introductory question is, “How much do you make?”

Americans tend to be shocked by this. We shouldn't be. We almost do the same thing.

A common introductory question in the Washington, D.C., area is, “What do you do?”

From just that information, one can pretty quickly size up a person by potential income just like is done in India.

For some, this question is also quite old. Our economy is increasingly made up of people who don't have a single job or trade by which they can be known. The question carries its own built-in frustrations. For others, they don't easily fall into an established mould. Some are still trying to figure out their place.

Either way, they're not being insensitive or obstinate by not having an easy ready answer to the question. It just doesn't work for them.

For anyone who needs an escape hatch to some other options, here a few ideas of topics to raise or questions to ask. They all start with 'P,' but I find them easier to remember in terms of time and space.

Person
When talking to the person in front of you, ask them about themselves. Jesus said to love the Lord with all our soul, mind, strength, and heart. We can love others in those ways, too.
  • Soul: Is the person to whom you're talking saved? Do they know Jesus? Often in a conversation there are topics that arise which can be used to steer the conversation toward things of the Lord.
  • Mind: What's on their mind these days? What are they reading?
  • Strength: Maybe activities together are an option for building a relationship. If they're older, they may be comfortable or even need someone with whom they can talk about their health.
  • Heart: How are they doing with the Lord and with others?

Plans (time)
  • Past: What have they been up to lately?
  • Present: How full or empty is their calendar?
  • Future: What are they planning next?

Places (space)
  • Where do they live?
  • What's going on in their city or area? Weather and sports are of interest to many, and there is eternal value in loving someone enough to build a relationship with them even if it's over temporary things.

People
  • Business: Some people like looking at the bigger picture, so instead of talking about just their role in an organization, talk about their organization as a whole. What does their business do? How does it operate? Where does it fit in the market? The business subcategory could also include recent purchases they've enjoyed making or hope to make.
  • Politics: Whatever one may think of the current state of our civic discourse, there's plenty of material for discussion. Be informed of what's going on in Congress or at the local level. What's going on in foreign or domestic policy? What are legislators and policymakers actually doing? Does their work honor God? What would be better than how things are now? How can we pray for our leaders?

These ideas are not just intended to increase conversational comfort levels, but to actually move the dial toward a more uplifting, God-honoring culture.

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