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DEVOTIONAL: Want To Be a Better Conversationalist? (1)

(…) let every person be quick to hear (….) – James 1:19 (ESV)

Today, the Covid pandemic is still painfully in our minds, but there is a new pandemic stalking the land: loneliness. The University of New Hampshire released this shocking report: “a University of Michigan poll found 56% of adults ages 50 to 80 reported feelings of isolation in June 2020.  (…) It demonstrates a stark contrast to reported feelings of loneliness in 2018, when 27% of respondents reported feelings of isolation.

“According to the National Institute on Aging the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation and loneliness have even been estimated to shorten a person’s life span by as many as 15 years. People who are socially isolated or lonely (SI/L) are more likely to be admitted to nursing homes and the emergency room. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, people who are SI/L may get too little exercise and often don’t sleep well, which can increase the risk of stroke (by 32%), heart disease (by 29%), mental health disorders (by 26%) and premature mortality (by 26%), as well as other serious conditions.”

What’s one key way to combat loneliness, which some call “the new smoking”? Engaging others in conversation.

“But I’m shy and don’t know what to talk about” you may say.

One easy method: Be a good listener and you may be amazed how much others will open up.

One of the most skilled  conversationalists in American history was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As chief executive, entertaining guests and chatting with a wide array of people was a big part of his job.

How did he do it? One of his aides reported, before guests were to visit the White House, Roosevelt would ask for information about them and their backgrounds. For example, if a rancher from Wyoming was coming, Roosevelt might look up some facts about recent weather out West, crops, cattle prices, etc., so they’d have lots to talk about.

Roosevelt knew that people would feel anxious meeting with the president, so he skillfully directed the conversation to most everyone’s favorite subject: themselves.

Get people to talk, give them a listening ear, and see if that doesn’t make you a better conversationalist.



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