Marti and I, on date night last night, were out to dinner at a restaurant with tables so close, the two older woman next to us were practically in our laps. I say “older” with caution anymore because most people would say that of me now, though I have not quite yet grasped that this as true.
The lady in my lap was Helen and she turned out to be a well-informed anti-government, doomsaying, Obama-hating right-winger who chastised me for reading the Los Angeles Times. When I found out she was Christian, I was not surprised. I wanted to steer her away from politics so we might connect in some way over our mutual faith in Jesus Christ, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Personal things about her life, family, kids, would have helped, but I never got a foot in the door.
There were a lot of things I think I would have liked about Helen (her spunk, her intelligence, her strongly opinionated character) had I time to get to know her, but I realized it would take more than a dinner conversation to get around her politics, if ever. Marti, in the meantime, was having a wonderful time connecting with Helen’s friend across the table who reminded her of my mother. I would love to have revisited my mother, but I couldn’t extricate myself from my own conversation. Both of these women are locals (we exchanged numbers) so we may have a chance to get beyond these first impressions, but I must admit, I am not relishing more time with Helen.
Helen is one of those people who has pretty much made up her mind about everything, which makes it hard to talk to her about anything. Any new topic will end up with what Helen thinks about this. Not once did Helen ask me what I thought about anything. She already knew what I thought because I read the Los Angeles Times. End of conversation.
Marti is very good at this. She has a lot of strong opinions as well but she keeps them to herself because she doesn’t want anything to get in the way of getting to know another person. She will feign like she never thought about a certain thing (when I know she has), just to get a chance to hear what someone else thinks. What someone else thinks is more important than what you think if you want to build a real relationship.
There’s an art to this. I’m not that good at it but I’m learning. I just know it starts with listening over waiting to talk, and making someone else more important than me.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).