9/8/08

Intimacy in Conversation - a Safe Place!


Have you ever gone to dinner with friends who are reserved, or the conversation somehow fell flat? You try to keep the conversation going, or think up things to say. It’s uncomfortable and really – not very relaxing or enjoyable.

For our family, dinnertime is very lively - with or without guests. We dive into each other’s lives by asking a lot of questions. By caring and often going to this deeper level, we are saying, “I accept you.” And by asking great questions, we discover what is true about our friends.

Did you know that by asking the right questions, you can actually validate a person? We confirm that we care about what they are saying, by listening to where they are coming from. You open up a place where your guest can speak his/her mind and opinions, in an atmosphere of safety. But these questions do more than draw out thoughts: they allow us to understand each other better - our talents, gifts and abilities.


Intimacy cannot be driven, forced or demanded. It is something that must be drawn out in a relationship. There is so much that we need to ask, and that we can learn from each other. We also grow closer to one another when we confide and share.

Here is a story that opened my eyes to true intimacy around the table, as a newly-married woman. This dinner became etched in my mind and it changed me, in how I view conversation around the table:

I was a young mother of one son with one on the way. My husband came home and informed me that we were going to dinner at a new friend’s home in Ashland, OR. I was a slightly apprehensive, not knowing this family, and also a little intimidated, knowing that the husband was an accomplished artist!

I walked in to this unique home with the husband’s incredible artwork displayed around the house, on every wall! The house was a little … chaotic … to say the least, and disorganized. Kids (they had 4) were running all over the place. The aroma was out-of-this-world delicious-smelling! Then we sat down to a feast of the best Italian cooking I’ve ever tasted. The food was seasoned with the perfect amount of garlic. The hostess was absolutely gorgeous inside and out. Her dark Italian eyes were piercing and her smile was so welcoming. Her hair was mussed up and I don’t even remember her clothing, but she glowed while she served an amazing meal.

Our conversation was … different. It was real. I thought to myself, these people are not trying to impress! They truly care about us, about our family and our lives! Even though their home seemed to be out of order, they understood that hospitality is a matter of the heart!

The paths we have traveled down open up doors for us to learn how to sympathize or empathize. Our questions—and our guests’ answers-- lead us to a more accurate view of our guest’s interests and concerns.

What a lesson for my husband and me, way back as a young couple!

We since have learned to be great conversationalists in our family. And with that – our table has become a safe place for many people.

Do your guests find your table to be a safe and nurturing place?

(My sister and I met up with cousins in St. Louis this past weekend, for a family wedding. We had no problem creating meaningful conversation - I think we all learned well from our parents how to be great conversationalists! We were blessed with amazing family and a wonderful time - what a GIFT!)

20 comments:

Treasuring these things in my heart.....Sue said...

I love what you shared, thank you!
Your Italian hostess was a great example of what we are meant to be in offering hospitality to others.
I love your blog!!!
Sue

linda t said...

I hosted a birthday dinner party for my husband last night and I asked the question "describe for us your favorite snapshot moment of a special summer memory".
I was blown away at how each of them shared with such detail and emotion, their favorite memory. All 12 guests were eager to share and it sure helped reconnect us on a deeper level after not seeing each other as much over the summer.
Loved the post Sandy!

~nanashouse~ said...

When this happens, I just relax, close my eyes and pray that God will open up a line of conversation. Watch Out!! God is so faithful to answer our prayers. Sometimes we have heard deep hurts that could only be revealed in a "safe" setting. Other times, we have enjoyed a very funny story that couldn't be told in any other setting than a "family table". Keep it up, you encourage us :-)

Kirstin said...

That is so awesome. I loved the story! What's nice Sandy i that you share your moments where entertaining wasn't as "easy" as it may appear to be now. YOu show ladies that you are "real" and you've been that struggling woman, and you give ladies hope that they can do it too.

I picked up some cute serving dishes at a garage sale a few weeks back. I'm excited to begin my collection of fun things to have handy for serving...including aprons and table cloths!!!

Nadine said...

I think with Tom being a pastor, it seems that times of intimacy comes out in our guest. I'm always grateful that they are fed - one way or another.

OKGardners said...

I love your blog and all the ideas you discuss. I was born with the gift of gab and have never been at a loss for words. However, I still get a lot of good tips from what you write. Hospitality doesn't mean "PERFECTION."

Off the Subject: The lady on the far left in your picture looks like Bette Midler - had you noticed?

Myrna said...

How about some tried and true sample questions Sandy
xoxo

Pennies In My Pocket said...

This is a wonderful post! There is such a huge difference in talking to someone and really showing your interest in them and listening...not just hearing.

I have a friend who has 'High/Low' conversations with her kids every night. They go around the table and each person says what the high of their day was and why and what the low part of the day was...even if the high isn't that high and the low isn't that low. I am keeping that on the shelf and going to use it when my baby is older.

Love your blog!

~melody~

Sheila said...

That's what I want our house to be like, too! If I'm with people who are shy, I just always ask them about their kids. Everybody likes talking about their kids!

What bothers me sometimes is when you have people over and all they talk about is themselves! But often, when they're leaving, they say they so enjoyed our conversation and getting to know us better--even though we didn't contribute anything! I've had that happen quite a few times.

But then I think, maybe they just needed to talk? And if I didn't get to share, too, maybe that's just part of serving them!

Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight

Jen said...

I'm glad you got to see family this weekend...it is always nice. I'm not very far from St Louis..only 3 hours.
You are right about conversation though.....I loved this story.

Betts said...

What a beautiful story. I love sitting around the table and talking, sometimes for long past the meal. It's nice to be reminded that I'll be remembered more for my smile and conversation than my housekeeping.

mrsjones6 said...

You share the most meaningful tips for true hospitality. This is such a timely post for me. Sometimes it seems our conversations are so random when we have company at the dinner table. When people leave I shake my head puzzled at the lack of intimacy with our guests.
If you have any suggestions for conversation starters besides kids, football, and work, I would love to hear them!

Have a blessed week,
Jen

willzmom said...

I have been away for too long and just caught up on your recent posts. You always inspire me with your graciousness and hospitality. I have a similar post to share soon about a party that I attended a few months ago where I was responsible for an 'ice breaker' game. It's a great way to get conversation flowing.

tjhirst said...

Intimacy through conversation is a wonderful gift that I can share. Sometimes people don't want to let us in, but I've realized that over time, like you said, questions can prompt them to know of my genuine care for them. I love questions. That's what Christ used to teach and that's a pattern we can follow, too. I grew up in St. Louis and my sister is getting married there in December. What a fun coincidence.

Claire, said...

Delightful post!
I would hope people feel safe. Although, when you show people you care, they can get scared away. And when you make people think, they don't always like that either. Some people only feel comfortable in front of the tv.
(we don't have tv, only meaningful conversations and silliness)

Kimba said...

What a wonderful post...a beautiful reminder that hospitality isn't all about the surface impressions. It's about the heart.

Thank you!

Ms. Tee said...

What a great story about the Italian dinner. I've learned over time that our guests are much more relaxed when the dinner is casual and we're relaxed. It really makes a great atmosphere for intimacy. :)

Terri said...

That is a nice story about the dinner party. I guess we all wish we could be that hostess! At least, I do.

sarah @ a beach cottage said...

a very true post and got me thinking

I try, like all the time, to ask questions, questions and make sure I listen to the answer, I find that people love to talk about themselves if they see you are interested and not in an 'I am' kinda way. I suppose I just am nosey so I love to find out what people do and think, funnily enough today I sat having coffee with a couple of girlfriends who I am really only just getting to know on a deeper level and I found out that one of the girls' husbands boxes (as in in a boxing ring) as a hobby. I'm not sure what I thought about that, but whoa if I hadn't of been asking questions I wouldn't have found out at all

makes the world go round

love your blog Sandy, oh and beautiful pics of you and your sister

Sarah

sarah @ a beach cottage said...

p.s.

thanks for your email re my link, I've changed it now I think, but i don't think I emailed you back to say thanks for letting me know

S

x