5 Steps for Purposeful Conversations

I’m sure you know people that are famous for being good communicators and listeners. After all, they can carry on a conversation with anyone. You might even think they can “get a conversation out of a brick wall.”

But don’t confuse effective communication with meaningless noise. Yes, there might be fewer uncomfortable moments of awkward silence, but that didn’t mean there was effectively and purposefully communicating. It was just making lots of noise, filling in the dead space between sentences.

With all the information that needs to be shared, and all sorts of different technologies to do that communicating, here are five steps towards purposeful conversations and communicating[1].

Step 1 – Make it Human. All the people you are communicating with were made in the image of God[2]. They are people that Christ died for[3]. They are worthy of your respect and honor[4]. No matter their beliefs, politics, quirks, you are to treat them the way you want to be treated[5]. Period. If you get this step wrong, you might as well pack it in and go home.

Step 2 – Make it Joyful. This is not making light of serious topics and conversations. But whenever possible, feed everyone joy through every available avenue. Joyful people are more relaxed, happy, and willing to share. They have greater creativity and are open to taking more risks. A joyful heart can bring healing to everyone individually, and to your group as a whole[6]

Step 3 – Make it Short. I completely understand the need for more and more conversations. But Zoom-fatigue and burnout are real[7]. Staying connected digitally may sound like a productive panacea, but there are significant downsides to it. Rather than one 90-minute call, why not break it up into three 30-minute sessions? Everyone needs to actively rein in overactive contributors both during and after the conversation.

Step 4 – Make it Real. Get rid of all the digital backdrops that make it look like you own a library or are sitting on a beach. Don’t spend an extra nanosecond on trying to impress anyone with attention-grabbing slides for internal conversations. Stop trying to convince people that you’re perfect and have it all together. Drop your digital and human guard a little. Here’s a revelation: everyone knows that you’re not perfect, so why try and hide it? Include little surprises along the way. Starting with you, have people tell short stories about when they were in their teens.

Step 5 – Make it Simple. It was Alex Osborn who first developed a way for people to use their “brain” in order to “storm” a problem[8]. When he wrote up the rules for creative problem-solving, it was four points and 12 words[9]. Whatever you need to do to enhance your conversations, keep it simple and to the point. No one’s going to be impressed with a long list of rules.

         When the solution is simple, God is answering.

         Albert Einstein

With all the division and polarization within our world, there has never been a greater need to build bridges. It takes healing and mourning to rebuild trust and relationships. And where does all this happen? In Small Groups.

Of all the parts within the body of Christ that need purposeful communications, Small Groups must be at the top of the list. It’s within Small Groups that people let their guard down, admit weakness, and their need for help.

This is the fertile soil where purposeful conversation germinates, take root, and bear’s fruit.


[1] Background information comes from McKinsey Global Publishing’s Raju Narisetti and Fred Dust, founder of Making Conversation, LLC. Fred’s latest book is Making Conversation (HarperCollins, 2020).

[2] Genesis 1:27

[3] John 3:16

[4] 1 Peter 2:17

[5] James 2:8

[6] Proverbs 17:22

[7] Four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their solutions, https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainstorming

[9] Go for quantity. Withhold criticism. Welcome wild ideas. Combine and improve ideas.

Have a question or an insight? Leave it below!

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