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!)