Talking to People

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blogs.

As is the case with many writers, speakers, and preachers, the messages they seek to convey are as much for the reader’s benefit as they are for their benefit. This is true for me.  I write about the issues I need to learn, remember, and hear.

My blog today is especially about me.

Setting Myself Up

As I have often mentioned, I’m an engineer and, true to the generalized characterization of engineers, I do not like to talk to people I don’t know.

This summer I scheduled two events where I would spend time with people whom I had never met. To make this time even more interesting, both these week-long events were completely outside my industry and the people with whom I normally associate.  The saying “fish out of water,” would be a perfect characterization.

Talking to Strangers

The lesson I want to focus on here is what I learned about talking to strangers.  In this process, I uncovered two facts about strangers.

First, our world is full of strangers, yet we don’t see them.  They are invisible because we are consumed by associating with our immediate friends.  We walk next to strangers, sit near them, and talk over them, but we never make the small attempt to converse with them.  Buses, coffee shops, public meetings, and city streets are full of people waiting for us to meet them.

Second, many of these strangers are truly interesting people.  How could it be the person you are sitting next to could be a world traveler, country recording artist, or accomplished painter.  Maybe they are an author, business owner, or a struggling parent.  But, until you meet them, you will never know who they are, how they might help you, and how you can help them.

Meeting People

With these two facts about strangers in mind, my intent this summer was to meet people.  That’s it, just to experience and learn to enjoy conversing with people I had never previously met.

Here are six applications I learned that made meeting strangers much easier.

  1. Listen. This is easiest with people you do not know because you have no preconceived arguments you need to be preparing.
  2. Comment on what they said. Don’t simply try to tell a better story, but engage and dig deeper into what you just heard.
  3. Follow your non-verbal alarms.  If the person begins to seem uncomfortable, change subjects or move on to talk to someone else.
  4. Make no judgments. Don’t let an accent or an appearance cause you to make any judgments or opinions.
  5. Don’t assume the people you meet will agree with you. It is possible to have a friendly debate with the people you meet.
  6. Learn the rules for what is acceptable to share and what is not. One event I attended was about music, and the unwritten rule was “no business talk,” which meant you should not openly ask what a person does for a living.  That made meeting people for me more difficult, but a lesson well learned.

God

The seventh idea for meeting people is that God calls us to be in community. He calls us to share with one another and help carry each other’s burdens. Colossians 4:6 says.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

In summary, meeting strangers is not about you, it is all about them. It is about their story, their needs, and what you can do for them.  And along the way, maybe they can be of benefit to you.

Remember, everyone you meet is an image bearer of God. The strangers we meet are to be treated with grace and courtesy. You will benefit from meeting strangers, and hopefully, they will benefit from meeting you. 

I encourage you to meet as many strangers as you can today.