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 Crowe,Adrian Ho,Aki Spicer,Alex Henault,Amy Jussel,Andrew Odom,Andy Nulman,Andy Sernovitz,Andy Whitlock,Angela Maiers,Ann Handley,Anna Farmery,Armando Alves,Arun Rajagopal,Asi Sharabi,Becky Carroll,Becky McCray,Bernie Scheffler,Bill Gammell,Bob Carlton,Bob LeDrew,Brad Shorr,Bradley Spitzer,Brandon Murphy,Branislav Peric,Brent Dixon,Brett Macfarlane,Brian Reich,C.C. Chapman,Cam Beck,Casper Willer,Cathleen Rittereiser,Cathryn Hrudicka,Cedric Giorgi,Charles Sipe,Chris Kieff,Chris Cree,Chris Wilson,Christina Kerley(CK),C.B. Whittemore,Clay Parker Jones,Chris Brown,Colin McKay,Connie Bensen,Connie Reece,Cord Silverstein,Corentin Monot,Craig Wilson,Daniel Honigman,Dan Goldstein,Dan Schawbel,Dana VanDen Heuvel,Dan Sitter,Daria Radota Rasmussen,Darren Herman,Darryl Patterson,Dave Davison,Dave Origano,David Armano,David Bausola,David Berkowitz,David Brazeal,David Koopmans,David Meerman Scott,David Petherick,David Reich,David Weinfeld,David Zinger,Deanna Gernert,Deborah Brown,Dennis Price,Derrick Kwa,Dino Demopoulos,Doug Haslam,Doug Meacham,Doug Mitchell,Douglas Hanna,Douglas Karr,Drew McLellan,Duane Brown,Dustin Jacobsen,Dylan Viner,Ed Brenegar,Ed Cotton,Efrain Mendicuti,Ellen Weber,Emily Reed,Eric Peterson,Eric Nehrlich,Ernie Mosteller,Faris Yakob,Fernanda Romano,Francis Anderson,G. Kofi Annan,Gareth Kay,Gary Cohen,Gaurav Mishra,Gavin Heaton,Geert Desager,George Jenkins,G.L. Hoffman,Gianandrea Facchini,Gordon Whitehead,Graham Hill,Greg Verdino,Gretel Going& Kathryn Fleming,Hillel Cooperman,Hugh Weber,J. Erik Potter,J.C. Hutchins,James Gordon-Macintosh,Jamey Shiels,Jasmin Tragas,Jason Oke,Jay Ehret,Jeanne Dininni,Jeff De Cagna,Jeff Gwynne,Jeff Noble,Jeff Wallace,Jennifer Warwick,Jenny Meade,Jeremy Fuksa,Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton,Jeroen Verkroost,Jessica Hagy,Joanna Young,Joe Pulizzi,Joe Talbott,John Herrington,John Jantsch,John Moore,John Rosen,John Todor,Jon Burg,Jon Swanson,Jonathan Trenn,Jordan Behan,Julie Fleischer,Justin Flowers,Justin Foster,Karl Turley,Kate Trgovac,Katie Chatfield,Katie Konrath,Kenny Lauer,Keri Willenborg,Kevin Jessop,Kris Hoet,Krishna De,Kristin Gorski,Laura Fitton,Laurence Helene Borei,Lewis Green,Lois Kelly,Lori Magno,Louise Barnes-Johnston,Louise Mangan,Louise Manning,Luc Debaisieux,Marcus Brown,Mario Vellandi,Mark Blair,Mark Earls,Mark Goren,Mark Hancock,Mark Lewis,Mark McGuinness,Mark McSpadden,Matt Dickman,Matt J. McDonald,Matt Moore,Michael Hawkins,Michael Karnjanaprakorn,Michelle Lamar,Mike Arauz,Mike McAllen,Mike Sansone,Mitch Joel,Monica Wright,Nathan Gilliatt,Nathan Snell,Neil Perkin,Nettie Hartsock,Nick Rice,Oleksandr Skorokhod,Ozgur Alaz,Paul Chaney,Paul Hebert,Paul Isakson,Paul Marobella,Paul McEnany,Paul Tedesco,Paul Williams,Pet Campbell,Pete Deutschman,Peter Corbett,Phil Gerbyshak,Phil Lewis,Phil Soden,Piet Wulleman,Rachel Steiner,Sreeraj Menon,Reginald Adkins,Richard Huntington,Rishi Desai,Beeker Northam,Rob Mortimer,Robert Hruzek,Roberta Rosenberg,Robyn McMaster,Roger von Oech,Rohit Bhargava,Ron Shevlin,Ryan Barrett,Ryan Karpeles,Ryan Rasmussen,Sam Huleatt,Sandy Renshaw,Scott Goodson,Scott Monty,Scott Townsend,Scott White,Sean Howard,Sean Scott,Seni Thomas,Seth Gaffney,Shama Hyder,Sheila Scarborough,Sheryl Steadman,Simon Payn,Sonia Simone,Spike Jones,Stanley Johnson,Stephen Collins,Stephen Cribbett,Stephen Landau,Stephen Smith,Steve Bannister,Steve Hardy,Steve Portigal,Steve Roesler,Steven Verbruggen,Steve Woodruff,Sue Edworthy,Susan Bird,Susan Gunelius,Susan Heywood,Tammy Lenski,Terrell Meek,Thomas Clifford,Thomas Knoll,Tiffany Kenyon,Tim Brunelle,Tim Buesing,Tim Connor,Tim Jackson,Tim Longhurst,Tim Mannveille,Tim Tyler,Timothy Johnson,Tinu Abayomi-Paul,Toby Bloomberg,Todd Andrlik,Troy Rutter,Troy Worman,Uwe Hook,Valeria Maltoni,Vandana Ahuja,Vanessa DiMauro,Veronique Rabuteau,Wayne Buckhanan,William Azaroff,Yves Van Landeghem

On this day...