I just submitted by chapter for the upcoming Age of Conversation – Why Don’t They Get It? book to be released in August. It was due today, and as I have been sorting out what I wanted to say in my little corner of the book, I quickly over-said my limit. It was 400 words or less.

So I scrapped what I was writing and started over. However, I thought I’d post my first attempt and let you chew through it. Hope you’re ready to listen…

Another page turned.

Another paragraph skimmed.

Another book bought, read, and placed on a bookshelf or resold on Amazon.

When will we learn?

There is an interesting observation made by one whom the sages of the world claim was the wisest man who ever lived. He said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”

What does one more book created by the contribution of more than 250 authors have to add to your already information-overloaded life? Will it, as Solomon claimed in Ecclesiastes 12.12 be one more thing to add to our weary study?

Only if you allow it pass from your conscience as quickly as a sound byte.

What you hold in your hands is more than a random collection of writing. It’s an attempt by a devoted few – for there are millions of writers – to engage you in what is becoming a lost art: conversation.

What we are bombarded with daily, from celebrity foibles to political gaffes, is not conversation. It’s an attack on the mind. Truly. You didn’t wake up asking or even wanting to know about Miley Cyrus’ photographs. Nor were you particularly prepared to handle the immensity of a Chinese earthquake that killed 50,000. But as soon as you allowed The Voice into your consciousness – either through radio, television, print, or web, your already-crowded awareness had to make room for more thoughts that most likely are not relevant to the person you want to become or the world that you live in.

And you couldn’t talk back. That’s the problem. You can’t set the boundaries and confines for this informational onslaught that hits you. It’s just there, and we as humans have become, in some senses, helpless sponges. It seems that we’re only good for absorbing information and buying products anymore.

When will we learn?

The change happens when we begin to engage in true conversation. Sitting down with a friend or an acquaintance and asking more questions than we make statements. Think to yourself: in the last “conversation” that you had with someone, how many questions did you ask about the person you “conversed” with? Or was the dialogue dominated by points, observations, random trivia, and other tidbits?

The art of conversation has been displaced by passive absorption. People nowadays have a tendency to talk incessantly without truly engaging one another on a deep level. The Hebrew king Solomon said, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18.13) Would that we all quit answering/talking without having truly listened to one another! We are deeply sick as a culture; we’ve become incapicitated to communicate.

Sound bytes become doctrine in a political year. Celebrity deaths occupy our attention for months. All the while, a friend can’t pay his bills and his sinking deeper and deeper into consumer debt. The rote response in every superficial conversation to “Hi, how are you?” has become, “Fine.” We simply don’t communicate any longer.

I’d like to suggest that you learn to unplug from the The Voice and listen more deeply to our world. The Voice is always talking, shouting, pumping you with information and events, news and trivia that you neither need nor grow by. SLL. Stop. Look. Listen.

A great dynamic in discipline of listening is simply asking questions. David James is my personal hero-question-asker. He was my boss when I was a campus minister. From the moment I first met David, all throughout our friendship, he modeled the practice of question-asking. I’ve never known him to dominate a conversation or try to prove a point. He is an artful conversationalist. When leaving a dialogue with him, most often I feel refreshed and worn out at the same time.

Why?

Because his wise, gentle and often-times probing questions force me to truly think, to engage at a deep level, to construct my words carefully. Every time I’m with him, I find that he genuinely wants to know about me. So few people truly want to know about you.

I’ve tried to practice what he models. I’ve always been startled by the results. What I’ve found is that people are starving for true conversation. They want to share their hearts, dreams, thoughts, but no one ever asks them to.

Think about that.

When was the last time that someone asked you a question that gave you permission to share deeply?

You are not a sponge, and neither is your neighbor. We’re people. We were created to relate.

Start asking. Start listening. And watch the conversational magic that erupts around you.

By the way, here are all the other contributors:

Adam CroweAdrian HoAki SpicerAlex HenaultAmy Jussel,Andrew OdomAndy NulmanAndy SernovitzAndy Whitlock,Angela MaiersAnn HandleyAnna FarmeryArmando Alves,Arun RajagopalAsi SharabiBecky CarrollBecky McCray,Bernie SchefflerBill GammellBob CarltonBob LeDrewBrad ShorrBradley SpitzerBrandon MurphyBranislav PericBrent DixonBrett MacfarlaneBrian ReichC.C. ChapmanCam Beck,Casper WillerCathleen RittereiserCathryn HrudickaCedric GiorgiCharles SipeChris KieffChris CreeChris Wilson,Christina Kerley (CK)C.B. WhittemoreClay Parker JonesChris BrownColin McKayConnie BensenConnie ReeceCord SilversteinCorentin MonotCraig WilsonDaniel HonigmanDan GoldsteinDan SchawbelDana VanDen HeuvelDan SitterDaria Radota RasmussenDarren HermanDarryl PattersonDave DavisonDave OriganoDavid ArmanoDavid BausolaDavid BerkowitzDavid BrazealDavid KoopmansDavid Meerman ScottDavid PetherickDavid ReichDavid WeinfeldDavid ZingerDeanna GernertDeborah BrownDennis PriceDerrick KwaDino DemopoulosDoug HaslamDoug MeachamDoug MitchellDouglas HannaDouglas KarrDrew McLellanDuane BrownDustin JacobsenDylan VinerEd BrenegarEd Cotton,Efrain MendicutiEllen WeberEmily ReedEric PetersonEric NehrlichErnie MostellerFaris YakobFernanda Romano,Francis AndersonG. Kofi AnnanGareth KayGary Cohen,Gaurav MishraGavin HeatonGeert DesagerGeorge Jenkins,G.L. HoffmanGianandrea FacchiniGordon WhiteheadGraham HillGreg VerdinoGretel Going & Kathryn FlemingHillel CoopermanHugh WeberJ. Erik PotterJ.C. HutchinsJames Gordon-MacintoshJamey ShielsJasmin TragasJason OkeJay EhretJeanne DininniJeff De CagnaJeff GwynneJeff Noble,Jeff WallaceJennifer WarwickJenny MeadeJeremy Fuksa,Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica HagyJoanna YoungJoe PulizziJoe TalbottJohn Herrington,John JantschJohn MooreJohn RosenJohn TodorJon Burg,Jon SwansonJonathan TrennJordan BehanJulie Fleischer,Justin FlowersJustin FosterKarl TurleyKate TrgovacKatie ChatfieldKatie KonrathKenny LauerKeri WillenborgKevin JessopKris HoetKrishna DeKristin GorskiLaura Fitton,Laurence Helene BoreiLewis GreenLois KellyLori Magno,Louise Barnes-JohnstonLouise ManganLouise ManningLuc DebaisieuxMarcus BrownMario VellandiMark BlairMark EarlsMark GorenMark HancockMark LewisMark McGuinness,Mark McSpaddenMatt DickmanMatt J. McDonaldMatt Moore,Michael HawkinsMichael KarnjanaprakornMichelle Lamar,Mike ArauzMike McAllenMike SansoneMitch JoelMonica WrightNathan GilliattNathan SnellNeil PerkinNettie HartsockNick RiceOleksandr SkorokhodOzgur AlazPaul ChaneyPaul HebertPaul IsaksonPaul MarobellaPaul McEnanyPaul TedescoPaul WilliamsPet CampbellPete DeutschmanPeter CorbettPhil GerbyshakPhil LewisPhil SodenPiet WullemanRachel SteinerSreeraj MenonReginald AdkinsRichard HuntingtonRishi DesaiBeeker NorthamRob MortimerRobert HruzekRoberta RosenbergRobyn McMaster,Roger von OechRohit BhargavaRon ShevlinRyan Barrett,Ryan KarpelesRyan RasmussenSam HuleattSandy Renshaw,Scott GoodsonScott MontyScott TownsendScott WhiteSean HowardSean ScottSeni ThomasSeth GaffneyShama Hyder,Sheila ScarboroughSheryl SteadmanSimon PaynSonia Simone,Spike JonesStanley JohnsonStephen CollinsStephen Cribbett,Stephen LandauStephen SmithSteve BannisterSteve Hardy,Steve PortigalSteve RoeslerSteven VerbruggenSteve WoodruffSue EdworthySusan BirdSusan GuneliusSusan HeywoodTammy LenskiTerrell MeekThomas Clifford,Thomas KnollTiffany KenyonTim BrunelleTim BuesingTim ConnorTim JacksonTim LonghurstTim MannveilleTim TylerTimothy JohnsonTinu Abayomi-PaulToby Bloomberg,Todd AndrlikTroy RutterTroy WormanUwe HookValeria MaltoniVandana AhujaVanessa DiMauroVeronique Rabuteau,Wayne BuckhananWilliam AzaroffYves Van Landeghem

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