friends-talking

In his book, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, Justin Earley shares this quote by Mortimer J. Adler:

“Without communication, there can be no community. … That is why conversation, discussion, or talk is the most important form of speaking and listening.”

FRIENDSHIP MATTERS

We seem to be having fewer and fewer sit-down, face-to-face, real conversations these days. Texting, emojis, messaging on Facebook and emails have replaced some of them. These things may have unintentionally short-circuited our ability to know each other deeply.

News stories abound about the increase in anxiety and depression for all ages, we’ve seen the suicide* rate triple for teens, and surveys indicate we as a culture are lonelier than we’ve ever been. In light of that, perhaps the new year should designate a year of intentional conversation with others.

“Everything in the universe has its roots in friendship,” says Earley. “That means that longing to be in right relationship with other people and things is at the heart of every molecule in existence—and most powerfully in our own hearts.”

Earley explains that conversation exposes us in two ways: face-to-face conversation brings risks and truth-telling happens.

HOW WE COMMUNICATE IMPACTS EVERYONE

Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist and author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle believes that replacing face-to-face communication with technology is depleting people’s capacity for empathy toward others. Research shows that the way people are currently seeking to communicate through devices threatens true friendship. Instead of things happening in real-time right in front of us, people are planning and curating the versions of themselves they want to bring to the discussion.

Removing tone of voice, facial expression and body language from communication leaves the conversation lacking in so many ways. How can we bring back real, honest conversation? It’s not as hard as you might think.

  • Make an effort to remove devices from the dinner table whether you’re at home or at a restaurant.
  • Create space for regular conversation and fellowship with family and friends. Instead of the well-meaning, “Let’s get together soon!” pull up your calendar and set a date to catch up on life together.
  • For the sake of your emotional health, connect with a couple of people on a regular basis. These would be the people Earley is describing with whom risky conversations take place, truth-telling occurs and perfection is not expected.
  • When it comes to modeling the art of conversation with your children, create tech-free zones/times in your home where your family can come together for game night or other activities that invite the opportunity for conversations to occur.

REAL CONVERSATION STARTERS

If you feel like you aren’t great at getting conversations going, here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What is something that is popular now that totally annoys you and why?
  • What’s the best/worst thing about your work/school?
  • If you had intro music, what song would it be and why?
  • Where is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
  • If you had to change your name, what would you change it to and why?
  • How should success be measured, and by that measurement, who’s the most successful person you know?
  • If you could learn the answer to one question about your future, what would the question be?
  • What was the best period of your life so far? What do you think will be the best period of your entire life?

People of all ages are dying from the lack of community that currently exists in our culture, but that trend doesn’t have to continue. Every person can have intentional, regular, and meaningful conversations with others. Imagine how different our culture could be if we all committed to working on this.

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Image from Unsplash.com

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