Keep the Game Alive
How to develop the art of conversation

“Yep, yep, nothin’, nothin’, sort of, dunno, nowhere, good,

Yep, nup, dunno, no one, sort of, dunno, nothin’.

Yep, yep, nothin’, nothin’, sort of, dunno, nowhere, good,

Yep, nup, dunno, no one, sort of, dunno, nothin’.

Sort of, dunno, nothin’.”

That is the chorus from the song Sort of Dunno Nothin’ which makes fun of the common responses of youth to simple questions. God’s youth should strive to change this downhill trajectory. The art of conversation is how we share our feelings, interests, desires and personality. We build our friendships and our reputation through our capabilities as a conversationalist. As you get older, your conversational skills become more important. How you handle yourself in a conversation will determine first impressions. Are you able to communicate with clarity? What is a potential boss going to think of you in an interview? How well do you make new friends?

The way you communicate can be a strength or a weakness. No matter your skill level, you must work to improve your skills as a conversationalist. The art of conversation takes diligent time and effort to develop.

A good conversation is like a game of basketball. When the whole team participates and the ball is passed around equally, the game is enjoyable. This is a team effort where everyone abides by the rules of the game. There cannot be a good basketball game or conversation without rules that are enforced.

The game is hurt when one person does not want the ball or when someone is a “ball hog”. In a conversation both brings the attention to one person who is not playing by the rules. A good game of basketball requires the ball to be bounced. The “ball hog” ruins the game for everyone. Be aware of how much time the ball is in your possession and be sure the ball is being shared. Sure, it is fun to see someone slam dunk on occasion but that becomes monotonous when repeated over and over.

There are six rules to abide by to keep the game alive in conversation.

1. Share a mutual interest.

There are a lot of interests that the youth in God’s Church have in common. Focus your conversation starters on aspects of living God’s way of life and God’s purpose for your life. Share your thoughts, feelings and views on these common interests. Be sure you avoid gossip and any sort of conversation that could humiliate and put down others. This is an opportunity for young men to develop leadership by guiding the conversation in the right direction.

2. Share the ball.

Everyone must have interest in the conversation and receive the opportunity to give input. This goes for the least talkative to the most talkative participants. It seems strange when one person voices no opinion ever! Pass them the ball because that is the only way they will learn, otherwise they will let the team down. When the ball hog has taken over the conversation, tactfully change the direction of the conversation to move the ball around. Opinions are shared when there is equal participation in conversation.

3. Don’t offend unnecessarily

Everyone has opinions to express, but doing them incorrectly breaks rules. Don’t carelessly put down or shut down someone just because they have a differing opinion—they are allowed to have different opinions.

Be very careful of how you use humor and especially sarcasm. Sometimes our humor is actually malice just disguised as humor—cloaked with a “just kidding” afterward. If you have to say “Just kidding!” then don’t say it. Sarcasm is often not humorous but offensive, and not appreciated by God. Don’t ever joke about someone’s appearance. Rise above these negative aspects of humor that humiliate others.

4. Control your temper.

James 3:5-6 says, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” Our tongue can set the whole world on fire by saying one thing we later regret!

Verses 7-10 say, “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” It takes God’s help and self-control to make sure we have power over our tongues.

5. Don’t interrupt.

We too often rush into a conversation which causes our communication to lose its effectiveness. Interrupting someone else does not allow for the ball to be shared equally.

6. Communicate Like Christ.

Christ shared emotions and could speak on many topics. It is a good thing to have a variety of interests so that you can contribute in a lot of ways.

Both introverts and extroverts are breaking the rules of conversation. The shy, insecure introverts need to be pulled into the conversation. The self-centered extroverts should be encouraged to share the ball! Proverbs 29:20 says, “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.” Conversation must be unselfish—focus on others, not yourself! Apply these rules and use God’s help to keep the game alive and develop the art of conversation.