Commandment #5: Igniting Conversation

Ignite conversation by planning ahead of time 2 or 3 specific questions and topics of conversation for your guests.

Above you’ll find a picture of “Auntie Betty.” Auntie Betty isn’t our blood auntie, but when she comes to dinner at our home, we feel like she is. She is 89 years old and has lived a very full life. You never have to ask her questions because she's such a lively conversationalist. Those are exciting meals when Auntie Betty gets going on her old-time stories. It’s fun for us, as adults, and a great way for our kids to increase their listening habits, and have fun at the same time.

Years ago, my husband and I started a habit of going on date nights once a week. Our kids were little so it took some planning getting a babysitter, organizing their meal, and saving the money to go. But it was money and time well spent. We were investing in each other.

Paul would come with 2 or 3 questions. We would engage in conversation centered on these questions, many relating to our lives growing up. We were getting to know each other and building our friendship.

We have found that this tool works well when hosting dinners too, especially with couples we are just getting to know!

Conversation can be a tool, which we use with others to put them at ease. Normally we think that asking the right questions of our guests would be a way of seeing what their interests are, or their unique contribution to the world!

But in one case in particular, Paul asked two wrong questions. Or, maybe the right questions? You be the judge.

Years ago, we had 2 other couples over for dinner. Paul had memorized 2 key questions to ask around the dinner table (one person in particular we did not know very well). Paul asked: What is your college degree? and What is your middle name and where did it come from? Little did we know, the man that one of my best friends was dating vowed that he would never talk about either question in the company of other people. I am not joking! Our friend’s jaw dropped when Paul asked these 2 questions, because she knew that it appeared that it was a set-up. Paul had never discussed this with anyone, not even me, and certainly not our friend. This was so outside the realm of possibility, so unusual, that we think it was actually divine, because it revealed a portion of that man’s nature that was a very bad fit for our friend.

I’ve also learned that listening is so important. But I haven’t always felt this way. I think back to another time we had a dinner party. This was a couple we did not know very well, but we had hopes of changing that. I was astounded by my reaction and hurt feelings that night as the evening came to a close. You see the woman who came with her family did all the talking. And I mean ALL the talking. I couldn’t believe someone could be so self-centered and “me” oriented. Disgusted, I refrained from talking and contented myself to serving. I remember setting the desserts on the table, rather firmly, in my anger.

As I said, I did learn from this night. It was a moment of truth. I learned to be ultra-sensitive when dining with others, to be ultra-sensitive to asking questions about their lives and their ideas. We also learned from this evening that Paul should have interjected and steered the conversation into another direction!

Many people don’t even have to think about conversation when hosting a meal. Sometimes guests—like Auntie Betty—are easy to host! But for the Reluctant Entertainer, conversation can be part of their reluctance.

Here is one question for your next meal, to liven up your conversation:

Who, in your years of growing up, was the most influential in your life, and why?

(Abby serving cheesecake during a meal with Auntie Betty and Hoppi)


Elizabeth L said...

That IS one cute lady! :)

Thanks for all the inspiration as always, Sandy!

Deeanne said...

These are great suggestions, Sandy. Sometimes before I go to my husband's company functions I'll read Time Magazine cover-to-cover. This gives me a lot of things to talk about with people I don't really know.

P.S. I "tagged" you. (See my blog for more info)

Barb said...

TIME as conversation piece--funny! Auntie Betty looks like a classy chick! I think sometimes we hafta learn to care about others enuf to ask them questions about the details of their lives. But then when we do that, most people will reciprocate, at least to some extent. Maybe it's cuz we live in such an impersonal world, or becuz so many people choose to be "bizzy," our cultural favorite excuse for avoiding in-depth involvement and relationships. But when we make real effort in conversation, showing genuine personal interest in those we're with, everybody benefits.

Apron Thrift Girl said...

I just wanted to add that I loved your profile information. Dave and I used to love entertaining people but have gone into hiding, very closely to everything you described. It doesn't help having two especially spirited children. They kind of throw a wrench in a nice meal. But we are anxious to start sending out invitations and cooking again. I love your blog.

Sandy said...

Hey, Dee, I like your idea with TIME magazine!
I played the "6 weird things" game on your blog. Since I'm not deviating from my "10 C's" here is what I posted on Dee's blog, 6 weird things about myself:

1.I love to make chocolate chip cookie dough, put some in a mug and microwave for 30 seconds. YUM.
2. I have very short toes.
3. I love shoes and table cloths. I won't tell you how many I have of each.
4. I can remember numbers very well. It use to drive my Mom crazy when I dialed a phone number and then a month later I'd remember it.
5. When I was young and stupid, my girlfriends and I would put motor oil on our skin and we would lie in the sun! Can you imagine what the swimming pool looked like?
6. I'm very organized when it comes to managing my personal time, but my personal space is usually very disorganized (until I can't stand it any more, then I organize it).

And "Apron Girl" I remember the years of entertaining with small kids. Interesting times, indeed! I hope you and your hubby get back into it!

Melissa R. Garrett said...

Sandy, unfortunately the times when my husband and I actually go on dates are few and far between. Money is usually the issue, so we reserve our dates for just special occasions. And truthfully, our dates are a little awkward. We try not to talk about the kids too much, so at first the conversation tends to be a little strained. In almost 8 years of marriage, I didn't think there could be anything new to learn, but I don't think I know who inspires him. We're going out to lunch together tomorrow, so I will be sure to think of a few questions. And I will be sure to really listen to him.

Sandy said...

Melissa, there are times when Paul and I will go to dinner and share a meal or just have coffee. We've even gone on walks and fly-fishing, or even to a movie. Or a free concert in the park. I know your kiddos are still little though and babysitters cost money. I hope the *question* idea works for you guys! We are still learning things about each other, after 15 yrs. of marriage.

Debi said...

I really like the idea of directed conversation...being an introvert...this would really help me get the ball rolling!
Thanks Sandy. I am learning so much from you.

godgirl said...

I wanna be like Auntie when I grow up! =D

linda t said...

Love the question Sandy... I am so going to use it the next time!
Your 6 weird things are priceless! Love the motor oil... hey I actually washed my face using Lava soap all through high school! It worked!
Great post!

Barb said...

Godgirl, you will have SO many stories to tell by the time you're Auntie's age..... :oD

godgirl said...

I am trying to think of my 6 silly things...

1. I schedule (yep, actually put 'em in my planner/calendar/phone) dates with God. I hafta set aside a whole weekend, otherwise I am unable to focus. I think I am A.D.D. Oh! And my house hasta be spotless before I can concentrate.

2. I line up my remote controls.

3. My daughter and I LOVE the Go Fish Guys. (for kids ages 0-100) Even when she is not in the car, I crank up their catchy tunes.

4. When I was a kid, I would make up songs and sing them to myself. I thought I was gonna be a singer/songwriter. Although, there is one problem, I have a horrible singing voice. My fave song was, "Groovy Kind of Love".

5. My biological name is Vanessa Marie Ring. I was adopted into Kelli Sue Ward.

6. I have been on Judge Judy. She is short and cute and not-so-sweet.

7. I want to marry Chris Tomlin.

godgirl said...

Oh, and to go with Sandy's toe theme, I have very long toes. Almost like fingers. 'Cept, my big toe is pretty chubby.

godgirl said...

When I was younger, I wanted to wear make up so bad that I used my mom's foundation that was about 50 times darker/redder than my face color. I looked a bit like a lobster, but I thought I was cool.

Barb said...

Does Chris Tomlin have a blog?! You've definitely got an ignited conversation here, Miz Sandy!

godgirl said...

Dunno if Chris has a blog...I wanted to email him and ask me to marry him, but that hasn't worked for me in the past, so I thought I would leave it up to God this time.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, thank you so very much for blessing us "try so hard for perfection women" with your blog. In growing up where everything had to be perfect prior to and during entertaining and taking that into my adult life as the norm, I have over the years just stopped entertaining because I didn't want that stress in my life anymore. My heart has changed in large part due to your blog and I am excited to entertain again with a whole new approach and attitude.
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