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Opening conversations

Opening conversations

Do we open up conversations with folks at church, or do we close them down? Seth Godin offers this reflection on conversations in businesses which is perhaps also instructive for those of us in the church as well:

Open conversations (or close them)

From Seth Godin’s blog

A guy walks into a shop that sells ties. He’s opened the conversation by walking in.

Salesman says, “can I help you?”

The conversation is now closed. The prospect can politely say, “no thanks, just looking.”

Consider the alternative: “That’s a [insert adjective here] tie you’re wearing, sir. Where did you buy it?”

Conversation is now open. Attention has been paid, a rapport can be built. They can talk about ties. And good taste.

Or consider a patron at a fancy restaurant. He was served an old piece of fish, something hardly worth the place’s reputation. On the way out, he says to the chef,

“It must be hard to get great fish on Mondays. I’m afraid the filet I was served had turned.”


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“Are you new to Pasadena or just new to All Saints?” is my favorite “open the door” question to anybody on the lawn with one of our red welcome bags from the welcome table.

Susan Russell

Gretchen Chateau

Or, hmmm, since we’re presumably proclaiming the Gospel (yes, do please stop ordaining businessmen), and if necessary, using words, look at the story of “Come and see” for guidance: John 1:29-51.

So, how about, “What brings you here today?” Open-ended, and allows you to meet the person where s/he is. When you give someone directions, you start from where s/he is, not six blocks from there. But, first you have to know where that is.

Gretchen Chateau

C. Wingate

I personally would find “can I help you” more of a conversation-opener under the circumstances than a nosy question about my purchasing habits.

Perhaps . . . just maybe . . . it might be better to treat it as a meeting between two people seeking to commit to one another in community than trying to make your parish another item to be sold in the market?

Hmm? Maybe? Humans rather than products? Just a thought.

Stop. Ordaining. Businessmen.

Please sign your name next time you comment – thanks for participating. ~ed.

Peter Pearson

Thanks for posting this. I notice these sorts of opportunities all the time and often miss them. In the future I will pay closer attention, even at church.

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