Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Harvard Business School just released a new study that says that people are happier when they have "relational diversity" (they made that word up). It's really fascinating. Here's what they did- they looked at people with varying numbers of "types" of regular interactions (family, coworkers, strangers, neighbors, friends) and then also looked at the balance of how much time is spent across those conversations. Then they measured how fulfilled people were.
And the findings seemed to suggest something interesting.
As humans, we are happier the more we talk with different categories of people. And we are happier when our conversations are balanced among those categories.
What that means is this: On any given day, do you only talk with your coworkers or your spouse? If you add a phone call to a sister or parent in there, and a short conversation with a neighbor or that guy in the produce aisle also buying avocados, then science says you'll feel better at the end of the day. Whaat?
Christians have long struggled with being fairly exclusive and removed from outside relationships. Part of it has been fan attempt to not be "polluted by the world" (James 1:27), and part of it has been from having a high value of church community (so high that you don't know anyone else!!), but many people don't have much connection with a the world beyond a tight sphere.
But that's just a microcosm of the world at large. All people are prone to tribalism. In churches, schools, offices, neighborhoods, and digital spaces-- it's easiest to be around the people that are most similar to us. Our relational portfolios are not very diversified.
Yet God has wired us for more than that. I love that a key element of the early church's core practices was hospitality. The Greek word used in the New Testament is philoxenía - a combination of "friend" and "stranger." That meant that they were constantly learning to live with open doors, welcoming strangers and freely sharing their way of life with all who interacted with them. This seems to be one of the ancient lost arts: treating strangers as friends. It can change our lives.
-Conversations with people who have grown up in a different culture can eventually break down prejudice.
-Conversations with neighbors of a different worldview can break down assumptions.
-Conversations with someone of a different generation can remind us of our egocentrism and help us keep learning.
-Ten-second conversations with strangers at the check out line give us a chance to practice kindness in wonderful ways that require nothing in return.
-A check in on a struggling friend or family member can draw you out of a self-focus and build compassion in you.
-And conversations with anyone done in the character of Jesus can draw them to God's goodness, too.
We have moments to diversify our conversations in big and small ways each day, leading us and others to growth, understanding, love, and fulfillment.
What's one way you can diversify your conversation partners today in the hospitality of Jesus?
Jesus, help me keep my eyes and heart open to the opportunities you present each day.
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