3 Characteristics of Meaningful Conversations

Even before COVID-19 changed the way that we communicate, I was passionate about having meaningful conversations. For a while now, I’ve had a difficult time appreciating the benefits of small talk. Nothing helpful ever seems to come from, “Hi, how are you?” We typically just respond by saying, “I’m good, how are you?” I believe the best conversations go deeper than what can be seen on the surface of someone’s life.

Perhaps I’m not very fond of surface-level conversations because, as an introvert, I appreciate connecting with friends on a deep level—like one-on-one meetings at cute coffee shops and after-church conversations that last until the pastor turns out the lights in the sanctuary. Although big gatherings can be intimidating to me, small gatherings are my happy place. I enjoy getting to know people better by asking good questions and by giving good answers to their questions.

There are a few characteristics—encouraging, transparent, and Christ-centered—that I believe are essential for having meaningful conversations. Here’s why:

1. Encouraging

We tend to remember conversations that were either really encouraging or really discouraging. I still remember the night from many months ago when a friend of mine specifically called me to encourage me about my writing. Honestly, I can’t recall exactly what she said to me or exactly how she said it. But I’ll always remember that her heart was kind and that her words were sweet; they brought healing to my weary soul, just as Solomon described in Proverbs 16:24.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul noted that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4 ESV). Based on this verse, I believe our encouragement to others should be based on God’s encouragement to us. Think about how God has worked in your life and what empowering truths He has revealed to you in your darkest moments. How can you incorporate those things into your conversations to encourage the people whom you speak with? How can you use your words to comfort others as they face challenges and trials?

2. Transparent

Sadly, church is sometimes the place where we most fear sharing our struggles with others. Some churches don’t welcome openness and honesty. Their atmosphere is cold and pious, rather than heartfelt and humble. I’ve been to churches like that, and I’ve always left them feeling alone—even though I’d been surrounded by other believers. But church isn’t about “being on our best behavior” (and then behaving however we feel once we leave). Rather, it’s about meeting with other believers to encourage them (Hebrews 10:24-25).

In his epistle, James stated, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another…” (James 5:16 ESV). If all we have are surface-level conversations, we’ll never reach the point of confessing our sins to one another or praying for one another. However, if we welcome transparent communication by communicating transparently ourselves, we lay the foundation for confession and prayer in church—and beyond.  

3. Christ-Centered

This characteristic of meaningful conversations is the most important of the three I’ve mentioned. Because if Christ isn’t the focus of our conversations, then what’s the point of having conversations? He provides people for us to speak with, and He gives us the ability to speak.

Writing to the Ephesians, Paul stated, “…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV). Of course, not every sentence we speak needs to start with “Jesus” because neutral topics will be the focus of many of our conversations. But ultimately, we should desire to honor God with our words. That can mean a lot of things, but it will include worshipping God through song, praising His work in our lives, and thanking Him for His blessings.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re eager to have deeper conversations with others, know that it’s simple and achievable. Of course, it takes time to learn to converse in a new way. And there’s no scientific formula for how to have a meaningful conversation. However, by focusing on the three characteristics of meaningful conversations—encouraging, transparent, and Christ-centered—our conversations can be transformed.

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