Give and Give
How well are you developing this facet of your personality?

In a Harvard study of several hundred preschoolers, researchers discovered something very interesting. They recorded the children’s playground conversation and discovered that all the sounds from little girl’s mouths were recognizable words, while only 60 percent of the sounds from the boys were recognizable. The other 40 percent were: vrooommmm, beep-beep, aaahhhh!!!

The differences between men and women are evident even in preschool. Communication experts say the average woman speaks over 25,000 words per day while the average man speaks around 10,000.

Regardless of your natural volume of words, if you want a strong relationship, you must communicate. The ability to converse is an important life skill that many young people lack—and that you must improve in yourself.

The word “conversation” comes from con, meaning “with,” and versari, meaning “turn.” Conversation is an alternating back and forth, sharing with one another. You might say it is give and take, but it’s actually give and give.

Well-Seasoned Words

Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Do you know how to speak with “every man”—friends, peers, younger, older, inside or outside of God’s Church?

Barnes’ commentary says that “salt among the Greeks was the emblem of wit.” Humor is a wonderful ingredient to add to a conversation. Like salt, it can add flavor to make it palatable and enjoyable, but too much will ruin the dish.

This verse is about conversation that has the flavor of godliness. It is speech that is gracious and brings joy, delight, sweetness and loveliness to others. In today’s world, conversation is a dying art. Texting has become the most preferred means of communication, especially among young people.

Sherry Turkle is a researcher who studies how people communicate using technology. When she asked young people what’s wrong with holding a simple conversation they say, “It takes place in real time, and you can’t control what you’re going to say.” It’s terrifying! You can’t edit or delete. You have to live with what you say once it’s said. People are genuinely afraid of face-to-face conversation.

Speaking in Unity

God and the Word were expert communicators from the beginning. They had total unity, harmony, cooperation and happiness within their wonderful relationship (John 1:1). They wanted to share and spread this way of give. They are trying to teach us how to relate to others the way they relate to each other.

Our relationship with God is based on conversation—”give and take” through prayer and study. When we pray, we are talking; when we study, we are listening. To make your prayers robust, you need things of substance to talk about. When you study, listen attentively and really learn from God. The same principles apply in our conversations.

God gave a specific list of ingredients He required the Israelites to combine to make incense, which represents prayers. It wasn’t just one ingredient. God required a variety of ingredients to make proper incense. Likewise, our prayers are all blended together to create a delightful fragrance. God loves variety, and there should be variety in conversation. It’s a blend of ingredients—knowledge, personal thoughts, encouragement, humor, sympathy and advice.

When we converse the right way, we build unity, which forms the basis of our relationships. If our relationships within God’s Family are strong, God can accomplish more through us.

Satan wants to prevent unity. He plants seeds of division by causing us to bicker, look down on others, distance ourselves, or have shallow relationships. If you get caught up in these problems, you won’t be able to accomplish much of anything for God.

Wholesome Conversation

Are you afraid of good, wholesome, face-to-face conversation? That fear is evident when we are used to keeping conversation on a superficial level, rather than making the most of the time we have together in conversation. Superficial conversationalists never rise above small talk. They talk only about insignificant things; they would rather joke around than seriously consider a deep subject. Their conversation is bland rather than having a rich variety of ingredients.

How skilled are you at moving beyond the superficial and using conversation to really get to know people? Do you use conversation to expand your thinking and build relationships? Effective conversation will motivate, increase ambition, and push you toward a higher standard. Good conversation with others helps you learn how to give, care, sympathize, encourage and practice love—genuine outgoing concern for others.

William Danforth wrote in I Dare You!: “It’s a pretty good rule to remember that every time we come into contact with another person, even though just walking a block, our job is to lead him to a higher plane than the one on which we found him.” That is the give way—the way that God and the Word live. Conversation is giving. Conversation is taking that individual and coming together to a higher plane!

Here are four qualities of wholesome conversation to consider:

1. Wholesome conversation is positive.

Emphasize the praiseworthy attributes in conversation. You must be thinking positively to speak positively.

2. Wholesome conversation is public.

If the conversation is something that you have to whisper—if it’s something private, between you and one other person—it’s often not wholesome. Anyone should be able to walk up and join.

3. Wholesome conversation has substance.

It’s based on things that are real—not pop culture.

4. Wholesome conversation has humor.

Humor can enhance conversation like salt in a dish.

Jesus Christ said, “[O]ut of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). Whatever is in the heart will come out in conversation. If the only thing in your heart is movie references, then that is the only thing that will come out in your conversation. Your conversation reflects who you are. Striving to develop good conversational skills is about striving to become a person of substance—having something in your heart worth sharing.

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (verses 36-37). When you talk with other people, remember that God judges you by what you say. He doesn’t want to hear idle words; He wants us speaking words of grace and substance. This has to be important to you. This is difficult, and the only way you will truly develop in this area is by prioritizing it and working at it.

The Speaking Spectrum

Strive to improve at talking with a variety of people—your parents, other adults of all ages, your peers and friends. Improve the quality of conversation you have with all those groups.

Under the section, “Teach Your Teen to Say Hello,” Child Rearing With Vision says: “Besides talking about their day with you, your children should be able to discuss the events of their day with other adults. When asked, ‘How was your day?’, your child should be able to respond with more than a one-word sentence. He should be able to engage in small talk, telling what happened to him at school or at a sporting event. He should feel at ease telling another adult what he is excited about.” If someone engages with you in conversation, how well are you able to keep it going? How comfortable do you feel talking to an adult?

“You should encourage your child to talk with other adults often. Such conversation skills are more valuable than most people realize. They will greatly add to your children’s success in their future careers. They will develop their character and help them grow to become contributing members of society. The stability of any culture hinges on the ability of its people to relate to one another in mature, responsible ways” (ibid).

Conversation comes in many forms—from chitchat to heart-to-hearts. On the Sabbath, we are instructed to fellowship and have real conversations of substance. Make it a goal to be comfortable with the whole spectrum of conversations. Know how to transition from something light to something more serious. Being comfortable in discussions across the spectrum requires a giving mindset. Here are some practical points on how give and give works.

Be Conversation Conscious

On the give side—when you are talking—be conversation-conscious. Be able to talk to a variety of people about a variety of things. Feed your brain by diversifying the subjects you study. Herbert W. Armstrong would visit the library before he went on a date. He actively studied to make sure he had things of value to contribute to the conversation.

Think about this proverb and ask yourself, which half applies more to you? “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness” (Proverbs 15:2). Use knowledge, and use it appropriately.

The Spokesman Club manual says this: “The ability to carry on interesting, wholesome conversation is a major factor of a good personality. If you are awkward at starting and contributing to such conversation, make a special effort to overcome. You do this by cultivating a habit of always having something worthwhile to say. Replenish your fund of knowledge at all times by keeping your eyes and ears open for important subjects helpful to others.”

Be conversation-conscious! Have your antennae up and ready to take in conversation helpful to others. Be aware of what you hear, and have a mind to relate it to someone else. Work on your memory. Take in all the good details of a story to make it just as entertaining when retelling it to someone else.

Verse 7 says, “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.” How much knowledge do you have to disperse? “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (verse 23). When you’re in a conversation and have just the right things to say, that gives you joy, and it gives the other person joy. The New International Version says, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!”

Be an Active Listener

On the listening side—also a form of giving—here are three techniques to implement:

1. Be a cherry-picker.

Small talk is important for building relationships. Develop the ability to use small talk to transition to a more substantive conversation.

The number one rule of good conversation is listen. Listening is giving the other person your attention and respect. Cherry-picking is being attuned to any anomaly, deviation, digression or mention of another place, person or time in small talk.

When someone says: This rain has been good for my garden, that sounds like small talk, but you are talking to a person who has a garden. That garden may be a minor hobby or a complete obsession. Respond with: Oh, you have a garden? What do you grow? Or, Tell me about your garden.

This is the first step to transitioning into deeper communication. It might be small talk to you, but to this person, it could be something really important. It’s been dropping leaves in my pool. My dog can’t go out. My mother used to love the rain. You could easily let these comments slip by, but if your antennae are up and you’re cherry-picking, it can lead to more substantive conversation.

2. Ask long-form questions.

Short form: Did you enjoy your trip?

Long form: What happened on your trip? What work do you do? What are some of your responsibilities? What is a typical day like for you? What inspired you to get into calligraphy? How did you learn to play the piano so well?

Ask questions that are personal but not nosy.

3. Strive for substance.

When the situation warrants it, strive to discuss some objective truth. In other words, move beyond the personal preferences and opinions. Get to something that is objectively true.

Lead fellowship on the Sabbath toward the spiritual. Don’t be afraid of repetition or saying something unoriginal. Venture out and strive to build your relationships through good, solid conversation.

Isaiah 50:4 says, “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” He is talking about giving and “taking”—which is also giving.

Use conversation for the purposes God intended. Practice speaking and listening in a way that builds relationships.