looking ahead · motherhood mission · no regrets

A Gossip Alternative

Do you ever long for more meaningful conversations with family or friends? Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a group wondering what to discuss but nothing comes to mind?

I know I have. So when I came across this post by Michael Hyatt, I was inspired.

Michael invites us to maximize our conversations by providing nine questions we can ask around the table.

Quality conversation around the dinner table is a subject that’s close to my heart!

To begin with, I owe a great deal to my parents. One of the things they taught me was the importance of avoiding gossip and speaking about others in a kind, constructive way.

They didn’t do this by talking about it; they lived it.

And while I don’t remember specific conversations that happened throughout most of my childhood meals, I know that the majority of them were centered around other things than gossip.

Naturally we were far from perfect; we had our fair share of fights and unkind comments! Yet the absence of people-slamming is something I’m so grateful my parents modeled for us.

I think this gave us a certain security, for sure in our younger school years.

When I got older though, I struggled over the realization that in some homes gossip was common fare.

Now of course I’m guilty of gossiping too. It’s much too easy to slip into it when I feel critical. And, strangely enough, I can be guilty of gossiping while also being critical of those who gossip. 

PROTECT PRIVACY

Why is it that when stories are written for publication, people are careful to place an asterick by names of those who may wish to remain anonymous and note that “names or identifying details have been changed for privacy reasons”?

Yet when we share the story in person, we leave out no identifying details at all?

Yes, it’s true that in publication there are laws to consider but do we ever consider that there are moral laws for spoken words as well?

Who desires to be ridiculed, criticized, mocked, condemned, or belittled behind their back? None of us, that’s who.

TOO HARD FOR US?

Some of us might dismiss our conversational habits because we’re simple people. We leave the deep thinking and tough questions to others. We feel justified in discussing people and situations because that’s what we’re good at.

Maybe we think we’re not intellectual enough for deeper conversations.

Did you know that dunce and dumb are the antonyms of intellectual? I think the majority of us are somewhere between the two: not super deep thinkers or intellectuals but we’re not dunces either! 🙂

The thing is, if gossip has been our primary conversation starter, it’s going to take vulnerability to ask the kind of things Mr. Hyatt outlined, and to share about our own lives instead of discussing the details of others’. After all, what if we embarrass ourselves or say something less than smart?

(If the fear of being vulnerable is limiting you, I recommend the book Daring Greatly. It’s a great read for anyone who struggles with vulnerability – and isn’t that all of us?)

A MODEL FOR OUR CHILDREN

Another compelling reason to have better conversations is because we are modeling a way of life for those who follow behind us.

I don’t expect my children to be perfect (luckily, because I’d be awfully disappointed if I did!) but I hope they become empathetic, kind, thoughtful young men and women who are sensitive to the feelings of others and careful with their words.

I hope they are good conversationalists too and are quick to make others feel welcome and included in conversation and in other areas.

I’m not totally blind to the fact, though, that I need to be practicing these habits myself if I hope to teach my little ones! And that’s where the catch comes in, isn’t it?

It’s much easier to dream about these qualities I want for my children and sigh when I don’t see it happening. It’s harder to take stock of my own habits and tally them up to see what the balance of my own actions comes out to.

That’s what I’m determined to do though. I want to respect others and be a part of meaningful discussions that draw us together instead of sending us home with new issues to work through after our visit is over.

I know I won’t always get it right and there will be times I’ll slip up now and again because I’m no more perfect than the next one. If I work at it though, little by little, I’m confident it will add up to something bigger.

Here’s to meaningful conversations with family and friends throughout the coming days!

What are your favorite conversation starters? Share in the comments.

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