Last week, we discussed the question, “What’s in a Name?” One thing can be certain, if you’re looking to develop a meaningful relational connection, taking note of a person’s name is vital – but your efforts shouldn’t end there! If we are to live lives obedient to Christ’s command to “go into the world and preach the Gospel”, we need to be able to address others on a personal level, not a general one. Asking questions (and listening to and remembering a person’s responses) is one of the easiest ways to acquire the information necessary to do so.
This should be reassuring for those of us who find it nerve-wracking even thinking about starting a conversation with a stranger. If there is one thing people enjoy talking about more than other people, it’s themselves. Most people are eager to share their thoughts and feelings and will jump right in if you show even the slightest hint of interest. So here are some suggestions to get the conversation moving:
Try an icebreaker question. “How are you doing today?” is a great start, but keep in mind that this is one of the most misused questions in the English language. Most people can tell from your tone, body language, and your willingness to make eye-contact whether your interest in their day is passing or genuine, so be prepared. If you start with a question like this and it’s clear that you’re genuine, some people will be dead honest and launch right into an explanation of how their wife just left them and they’re living on SpaghettiO’s. In such cases, you’ve achieved exactly the relational connection that you’re seeking right off the bat. Your duty now is to listen carefully and, when appropriate, ask further questions. Don’t neglect this step and resort to repeatedly nodding your head or saying, “uh-huh”, since these habits are good cues that your eyes are about to glaze over! Express continued interest and then wait to see if God opens a door.
At the same time, recognize that some people may not see your overture as a caring question, but as a formality. If this is the case, try asking questions that require more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Then listen to what the other person has to say. Sometimes their response to “What do you think of all this rain we’ve had lately?” can give you great insights into their character and outlook on life and will lead to an unexpected opportunity to share the Gospel!
Be open and friendly. Sometimes a simple observation like, “It looks like you’re getting ready for a party” can lead a fellow shopper into a long explanation of how they’re cramming for the holiday because their husband’s family phoned yesterday and told them they would be here this afternoon. An understanding nod and sympathetic smile may go a long way towards a deeper conversation – and with all that stuff in her cart, you can bet she’ll welcome someone to chat with while she waits to be rung out!
Try the same technique with other students in study hall or customers in line at the bank. You’ll find that most people are willing to welcome small (or not so small) talk just about anywhere there’s a queue. It gives us a sense of community and makes the time pass more quickly for all involved.
Don’t push or pry. While most people readily open up when asked to share their personal views, some people don’t. If for some reason you try to start a conversation and the other person just isn’t interested in engaging in a dialogue, don’t push or pry. They might just be having a bad day or they may have noticed your cross and be recalling some negative experiences from the past. Your willingness to let them be might open the door for you or someone else to develop the right sort of relationship with that person at a later date. Not all evangelism is the result of the spoken word!
Showing an interest in another person is a great way to establish a quick relationship and can open up a multitude of opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Give it a try and see how it works. Then, take a moment to share your experiences in the comment box below!