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The Six Conversations | Heather Holleman

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
January 7, 2023 1:00 am

The Six Conversations | Heather Holleman

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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January 7, 2023 1:00 am

When’s the last time someone asked you a meaningful question? On the first Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman of 2023, author and professor Dr. Heather Holleman will join us. She says it’s time for a conversation revival. If you want to enrich your relationships—and expand them, even with people you disagree with, don’t miss the discussion on this edition of Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Featured resource: The Six Conversations: Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility

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Building Relationships
Dr. Gary Chapman

In my own life, I grew up as a lonely child and really struggled with loneliness so much of my adult life. Now that I know how to have a warm and meaningful connection, I haven't struggled with loneliness.

I'm going on my 23rd year of marriage. I love my conversations with my children. These techniques have really changed my life. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller "The 5 Love Languages" . Today, author Dr. Heather Holliman wants to start a conversation revival. How do you connect with others in an age of isolation and incivility? That's an important question for those trying to build relationships and we're going to talk with her today about the six conversations. Practical skills for connecting with others are coming up on today's broadcast. If you want to find out more about the topic, see our featured resource or find other ways to strengthen relationships, go to

That's Gary, you have tried to foster better relationships with every program, every book, every message you've ever taught, but it's a time when it's really hard to have a meaningful conversation these days because of the depth of our divisions. What do you say about that?

Well, I think it's true, Chris. You know, we're almost in a verbal battle rather than a verbal conversation. We just know enough about the other person.

We want to show how they're wrong and we're right. And so it's more of a battle than it is the conversation. So yeah, I think what we're going to talk about today and this book in particular is going to be really helpful to our listeners if they will listen because we've got to come back to being civil with each other and carry on meaningful conversations and allowing for the fact that we're humans and humans differ about things and it's okay to be different.

So yeah, I'm excited about our conversation today. Well, she's back. Dr. Heather Holloman, an teaching professor at Penn State, speaker, author. She designs advanced writing curricula for the English department and loves helping students thrive professionally. She's written eight books, including the bestseller Seated with Christ and an award winning book on evangelism that she co-wrote with her husband, Ashley called Sent, Living a Life That Invites Others to Jesus. Heather also serves with faculty commons and the professor and graduate student ministry of CREW. She has two daughters, three cats, and our featured resource is her latest. The Six Conversations, Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility.

You can find out more at Well, Dr. Holloman, welcome back to Building Relationships. Oh, I'm so excited to be with you and I'm really looking forward to this conversation.

Thank you for having me. Well, why don't you begin by telling us a little about what you and your husband do at the university and in life? Well, right now I'm a professor at Penn State in the English department and I just care deeply about helping students connect in rich community. And my husband, Ashley, is actually transitioning off of his national role with CREW where we've been working with graduate students because of the success and interest in the book Scent.

He is now moving into a new ministry where he will come alongside churches and other ministries to help create a culture of evangelism and have better resources. So we speak, we develop training materials, and right now we're just passionate about sharing with churches about how they can help create a scent culture in their church. Well, it sounds like each of you are very actively involved in life.

Yes, yes. We also have two daughters. We keep active. We have a daughter at University of Pittsburgh and a senior in high school and so I'm busy being a mom as well, a wife and mom.

That's great. Now, why did you write this book on having better conversations? What prompted it?

Well, what prompted it was several things. The first was my passion for students and how I just knew there was what researchers are calling an epidemic of loneliness on the college campus. And I was showing my students the results of the Harvard grant study, one of the longest research studies in the world, trying to answer the question, what is the single most determining factor of a happy life? And the answer is warm relationships.

And my students would ask, how do we get those? And I just noticed the culture of loneliness and incivility. And finally, just the health impacts of chronic loneliness. I was looking at the Cigna health study of 20,000 US adults and almost half the population is saying they do not have meaningful social interactions.

They do not feel like they are having good, warm conversations. And finally, my passion for evangelism. When I was doing research on how to really help people share their faith, a lot of people feel trained, they feel ready to go to talk about Jesus, but they would say to me, can you go back a step? We don't even know how to have a conversation in general. Go back and help us in this culture of incivility, how to connect in loving ways with people before we even begin to talk about our passion for Jesus.

Yeah. Well, all of that is certainly motivation for this book, and I'm excited that you've done it and excited that we're sharing it with our listeners today. You know, we think of incivility and division along political lines, but it's not just politics that divides, is it? Well, we're in a culture where there's just a lot of division about really anything.

Your religious beliefs, what you believe about social issues. But also, I've been looking a lot about what scripture says about what it's like when we're not walking with Jesus and how Galatians 5, we're really good at creating controversy, division, outrage. I just was thinking, okay, this is how we're going. This is how it's going for us when we're not walking with Jesus. We're becoming more and more divisive and forgetting how much God values a spirit of unity. And as I was researching about this culture of incivility, I saw on the campus what some people are calling the outrage industry. We're just really good at being outraged and complaining and being divisive, almost as if we think it's morally superior to be angry and divisive. So we're kind of divided really because of those reasons, and also we're just finding lots of ways to be in arguments with people.

Yeah. I think our listeners can identify with that. All you have to do is be on social media or watch TV. You're going to see evidence of what you've just said. You think Christians are better at the discipline of conversations, or are we just like the rest of the world?

Well, I don't have any way to measure it, but I would say we're all in the same boat. We all need to improve our ability to have warm and loving connections with people. No matter where I go, no matter where I speak, I've never met one person who says, I don't need to learn anything about how to have a better conversation.

Most everyone knows they need to improve in these areas. As you look at the Christian world, churches really fell apart during the last election season, and because of COVID, there was just so much division just among the churches. So I do care about how Christians are having conversations, but I would say we're just as bad as everyone else. Nobody's really speaking well in the culture. Have you seen this struggle on the college campus to have conversations? Well, one thing that happened recently is a student approached me and said, you know, Dr. H, I don't think you realize how lonely it is to be a college student.

And you know, this was just last week. And as I look at the lives of college students, they not coming out of COVID, just the isolation. But I mean, even before that, just the lack of meaningful connection. There's a lot of texting and things where maybe they share social media videos and things like that, but there's this lack of an ability to enter the right mindset and have the skills to connect in loving ways. And there's also a fear of cancel culture, of saying the wrong thing. So I have students that are very quiet and they'll say, I'm just afraid of talking at all because I don't want to be canceled.

I don't want to have the wrong opinion. So I am seeing fear and I'm just seeing a lot of lack of skill, lack of the, what I call the four mindsets. So I do a lot of professional development to help people become curious, believe the best about people to learn how to express concern and share their life. Thanks for joining us for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. Our guest is Dr. Heather Holliman, author of The Six Conversations, Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility.

You can find out more at Dr. Holliman, before the break, you mentioned the four mindsets of a loving conversation. What are these mindsets?

Tell us about them. Well, I'm so excited about these mindsets because what I realized is you can give people a lot of questions to ask and, you know, most training and how to have better conversations is just like that. You know, do this, do that. But what I realized is if you're missing the mindsets that build interpersonal connection and what researchers call closeness-enhancing behaviors, you're not going to have a good conversation. And what I found is the four mindsets, and this is rooted in social science, but also confirmed by the Bible, what I was reading in the Bible, are four things you want to be curious about people. And so many of us are so bad at just asking really good questions of other people.

So be curious. The second is to believe the best. And that's really important because psychologists call it unconditional positive regard. It means that you look at someone and instead of being judgmental and superior and suspicious of them, you position yourself to learn from them, to marvel at them as a child of God with infinite value.

It's really revolutionary to look at someone and believe the best instead of judging them for what you think they believe or maybe who they voted for. The third thing is to express concern. It's called investment. And what I learned is it's about assuming a special responsibility for someone's welfare. It's what we read in Galatians 6, you know, to carry each other's burdens.

And you do that by really understanding what someone's stressors are and making supportive comments about ways you want to help them grow. And the last thing I learned was that we have to become better at sharing our lives and sharing our lives in ways that are vulnerable, where we know how we're, you know, things we're thinking about, ways we're growing, just to be self-aware enough to know how to share your life with other people. So these mindsets were really exciting to read in the social science. But as I looked back through the Bible, through the lens of this kind of research, I thought, well, Paul's already taught us this in Philippians 2 and Romans 12.

I was looking at passages about how a very hostile environment that existed between Jews and Gentiles, there was a solution there about how to outdo one another in showing honor, how to take on the interest of other people and value them above their, above yourself. So I love the four mindsets. It's changed my marriage.

It's changed how I relate to my children, my students and my neighbors. Yeah, I like those. How do you work at building these into your mindset, your own mindset? Because we don't necessarily have all these just by nature, right? Right.

Right. Well, what I've been helping people and myself understand is the first point, interpersonal curiosity is also one of the best professional skills you can develop because it'll mean, it'll mean you know how to connect well with a team and with supervisors. One thing you can do to develop curiosity is to picture the person in front of you as having a bit of information, a one-of-a-kind viewpoint that they're going to teach you something that could change your life forever. That helps me almost like I'm going on a treasure hunt when I see someone. And I also like to remember that God made this person. This person again has infinite value. And to really think, okay, I need to say, what would I want to, what would a curious person want to know about this person?

So you can practice. And one of the beautiful things about this book is I teach six pathways that all have accompanying questions. So you'll never, you'll never kind of get lost in a conversation again, and you have endless ways to be curious. With believing the best, that's really a convicting mindset because most of what I see in the culture now is when you see someone, what's going through your mind is who did they vote for? What do they believe about vaccines?

What was their position on Roe v. Wade? Things like this. You're kind of vetting them. You're going through a series of checklists in your mind about whether or not this person is someone that you'll talk to. What if instead you believe the best about them? The way to develop that is to tell yourself this.

There's always a story behind why someone believes what they believe. There's always something that you can ask about the passion they have for the thing that they care about. And that will bring that person out of a reactive brain state and make them really responsive to you.

You can actually have a very productive conversation with people who believe things that you don't believe. And that's when Paul says, you know, take on the interest of other people. Value them above yourselves. That's a very convicting mindset. You can grow in expressing concern by always thinking to yourself, how can I find out what this person's major stressors are? What is this person's next upcoming decision?

Or even what keeps them up at night? That's kind of what I do when I talk to neighbors or colleagues. So, and finally sharing your life. You just have to practice thinking, okay, if I'm going to share my life, I need to believe that this person is worthy of my story.

I'm not going to be arrogant because some of us don't share our lives because we think the other person isn't good enough or worthy to hear our story. So imagine that you're going to give a gift and honor that person by sharing your life with them. You know, those are so helpful. And I think our listeners might be feeling what I'm feeling. That's really good.

I don't want to lose that. So that's why listeners, you need to read this book because it will help you. You can meditate on what she just said, because all of these are extremely important in terms of having conversations with people and especially people that you disagree with, which will be everyone on something you're going to disagree about something.

So, wow, those are powerful. And I really appreciate your, the practicality of what you're saying. You also talk about a theology of a loving conversation. Does the Bible really teach us about having good conversations? Well, I think it does.

And that's what made me so excited and also so convicted. Like you said, you know, the research was showing me that if one of those mindsets is missing, the whole thing falls apart. You won't feel a warm connection unless you're able to bring all four of those mindsets into a conversation. Well, when I looked at Philippians 2, and I kept rereading Philippians 2, it was as if the Holy Spirit was not letting this go. Philippians 2, Paul really talks about, it's really about humility, humbling yourself. And when you value others above yourself, that is a way of showing positive regard, believing the best about them. But when Paul says to take on the interest of other people, I thought to myself, well, how am I going to know what their interests are unless I ask them? And I was talking to a professor about this mindset of interpersonal curiosity and his own, you know, loneliness and kind of the things he was thinking about in his life. And when I shared the mindsets, he said to me, oh, well, I know what my problem is. And I said, what? He goes, well, I just don't care about other people.

I don't care what's going on with them. And so Philippians 2 is deeply convicting. And, you know, in Thessalonians, Paul says he was delighted to not only share the gospel, but his life as well. And that made me realize, you know, Paul really did not only do these things and express concern, but he shared his life. And what I love about the mindsets is you read, for example, Romans 12. If you read Romans 12, it's so countercultural that you'll almost say to yourself, there's no way this can be true. That's where Paul says, outdo one another and showing honor. That's the passage that says, love your enemies, bless them, you know, leave it up to the Lord to judge and avenge.

Your job is to bless your enemies and believe the best about them. I thought, oh my goodness, I am not doing this. This is not who I am. And so as soon as I saw how Paul was instructing us to live, and also Galatians 6, carrying each other's burdens. After I studied those, and as I was writing this book, I marched across the street to my neighbor.

And I said to her, I have been a terrible friend. I said, I want to know, you know, what are your major stressors? How can I support you in ways that you want to grow or things that are, you know, what's keeping you up? And I sort of, I said to her, you know, I want to carry your burdens. I want to ask about your life. So it's convicting.

It's so biblical, and it's a beautiful way to live. And when you do this, you're really going to stand out from the culture. Yeah. You know, I think any of our listeners who are in a small group, or you may be a small group leader, you know, this is the kind of book that is ideal to be, to use in a small group like that. As you look at the culture today, what is so concerning to you about the current climate? Well, this is an interesting question because what concerned me originally was just, you know, helping my students have belonging. And I was looking at the research about just human happiness, you know, so it was sort of a mental health exploration because the research shows you're happier if you have warm connections with people. But as I was writing this book, I would get email after email of how crucial this topic is. For example, nations have appointed ministers of loneliness because suicide rates are so high. I got an email, a research on the diseases of despair in my own state of Pennsylvania. So alcohol abuse, you know, suicidal ideation, they're linking it to a lack of social connection. And so I just began to be really concerned about the health effects, mental health effects, and then also the chronic loneliness breaks down the body. I showed my students a research report that lonely people have worse immune systems and they have higher cholesterol. And I thought, these research studies are astonishing.

And so that's where it began. But then I thought, this is really a spiritual maturity issue for me. And when you mentioned the use in the small group time, I suddenly saw this as discipleship material for myself, that Christian maturity is really about adopting these mindsets. And then in my own life, I grew up as a lonely child and really struggled with loneliness so much of my adult life. And now that I know how to have a warm and meaningful connection, I haven't struggled with loneliness. I'm going on my, you know, 23rd year of marriage. I love my conversations with my children.

These techniques have really changed my life. Yeah. Yeah.

I can see how that would be. How do you know if you've had a good conversation with someone? I mean, is there, is there a test you take to say you did well on that one?

Well, this is, you're going to love how practical this is. So a lot of people would ask that same question. Then they'd say, well, I've asked good questions, but where, where does this conversation end?

And then how will I get to that place of warm and loving connection? Well, what I discovered is what I call the three fresh goals of a conversation. And they're deeply biblical, but also there's research to back up these things. You know, people study this in relationship labs and different social scientists and schools are studying this. That in any conversation you want to think about encouraging the other person. So whatever they're sharing, you want to say an encouraging word to them. So think about scripture, the idea of, you know, build others up according to their needs. I was also looking at this idea of helping people with their personal growth.

You know, one of the number one books right now that my students are reading is Atomic Habits. So they all have personal growth plans. They want to put new habits into place.

They want to grow. Could you imagine ending a conversation saying, I'm so glad you shared the ways you're trying to improve this year. I'd love to support you and learn more about how I can be involved in what your goals are. Can you imagine someone saying that to you and how supportive that would be? And the last thing, which is so delightful because the research shows that when you do this, you not only increase your sense of connection with others, but you decrease your feelings of depression. And that is called helping someone marvel, getting them to a state of awe.

Now this is difficult. This is something I've been working on, but it's when you have a conversation and you're able to end and you're both worshiping the Lord. You're both looking at something that's making you marvel, whether it's in nature or something just extraordinary that happened.

Marvel and awe are just beautiful brain states. And it's what we learn in scripture about making music in your heart to the Lord. So I've been trying to do that both with my Christian and non-Christian friends. And it makes the conversation so loving when we end with encouragement, helping personal growth or marveling. We know that sometimes in our conversations, they don't go well. So what are some of the reasons that a conversation might go wrong?

Well, this is again, deeply convicting. This is how I'm trying to grow in my conversational skills. Conversation can go wrong if, well, I list 10 reasons, but the three that I see that are really the worst for me are advice giving. People aren't connecting with you for advice or counsel unless they ask you. Most of the time, people just want a warm connection. So often if someone's sharing something with me and there might be an opportunity for me to give advice, I might say, do you want me to give you advice or would you rather I keep asking good questions? Well, guess what?

Nobody says I want your advice. So I learned that. And also it's sort of, I learned this about myself that I can be very superior and arrogant to people. And it's really humbling for me to tell you this, to confess this on radio, but I can be really, I can have attitudes of superiority where I kind of know what I think people should do. Well, lately I've thought what if instead I wasn't arrogant, I wasn't superior, but instead I was teachable and I became a really good listener and didn't have all of the answers. That has changed all of my friendships. I have more delightful friendships now than ever before because I stopped being arrogant. I stopped giving advice and I also learned how to listen for the first time in my life. What's involved in good listening?

Well, this is the fate, my favorite thing that I learned when researching this book. So if you were to ask me and all the research and all the things you read, what was the best thing you learned? Well, I learned what it means to really listen.

And I got so excited about this because nobody ever taught me this before. When you're listening to someone, you are listening for what their core values are. In other words, when someone's talking to me and say, for example, they mentioned, you know, I was talking to a colleague and she said, and this is someone I didn't know very well. I noticed as she was talking, she would say things like, Oh, I turned in this project and I didn't feel like it was my best work or I did this one thing and I misunderstood that part so it wasn't my best work.

And I said to this new friend, you know, this was maybe the second conversation we had. I said to her, I can really tell that you value excellence. And she said to me, Oh my goodness, I do.

I really do. And that began such a warm and loving connection that afterwards she said to me, I really love talking to you. Will you come back to my office next week?

Well, guess what? Now we have lunch every Wednesday and we are so close. And I've been doing it with all my neighbors.

I mean, I was trying to make a warm connection with a neighbor. And I just said, Are you going to the game this weekend? And he said, Well, I was going to go, but my son changed plans on us. And then we had this itinerary and nobody's following my itinerary.

And my wife didn't do this thing she was supposed to do. So I said, you know, as I'm listening to you, I can really tell you value order and preparation and having a schedule. And my daughter was beside me and this man was walking his dog and he said to me, I do. I really do value those things.

And then he said, You guys walk with me. So I knew listening to people's core values and just saying, I can tell you really value this, especially with young people. Young people do not want to feel judged.

They want to feel heard. So if someone's talking about their skincare routine or what they did with their hair or new clothes and I say to them, I love talking with you and I can tell you really value aesthetics and beauty and I just love that about you. They'll say, Oh my gosh, I do.

I really do. You know, they'll just feel so loved. So listen for core values and it's going to change your marriage and your relationship with your children because people want to feel heard. They will feel loved. They will feel accepted. We hope today's broadcast is encouraging you. Tell a friend about our program. They can hear the conversation with Dr. Heather Holloman at Building Dr. Gary Chapman is our host, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Our featured resource today is Dr. Holloman's book, The Six Conversations, Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility. You can find out more at that website, Building Dr. Holloman, I have to know, has this helped your marriage, your relationship with Ashley?

Yes. I mean, just the idea of how to listen to him. And then I'll tell you later what happened when I learned his favorite conversational pathway. But first I had to learn to listen to him. And when I learned about listening for core values, one of our major conflicts in marriage is the speed at which he makes decisions. I make decisions immediately.

I like to know what's on my calendar right then. Ashley likes to take a long time to make a decision. He's very deliberative. I was judging him for that and making it a source of conflict in our marriage. But when I began to listen to what his core values were, as he was talking about that, finally I said to him, I can tell that you really value deliberation and slow thought processes. And I said to him, I'm really grateful that God made you that way because that's a core value of yours, and I want to support that. What can I do to slow down how I'm going about making decisions?

And he felt so loved. We stopped fighting about it. He was able to say to me, well, okay, I can speed up a little bit here because I know you want this decision by Friday.

I would make it in a month, maybe in two weeks. We're just coming together because we have different values in that area. So listening for what people value and believing the best about them and not being arrogant has really changed my marriage.

I hope every married couple out there is listening because all of us have those experiences. And we tend to put the other person down as being disorganized, for example. And we're very organized in reality. They're values.

They don't value that particular thing. Oh, this is so good. Well, the title of this book is The Six Conversations. And we need to get onto those now. So we give the folks what you're talking about.

Six Pathways. You've discovered what you call six conversations. So walk us through those six. Well, this is what's so easy.

You're going to wonder why has no one taught me this before. So whenever you're looking at someone, you can think about the six dimensions of what it means to be human. And you can begin conversation in any one of these categories and then follow up in endless permutations in those same categories.

So every time you look at someone, think of these six things. They're social. They have friends.

That's the social category. You can ask questions about their social life. Number two, every person that you meet is emotional. They have emotions.

You can ask about how they're feeling. Number three, every person's physical. People actually like you to ask some questions about their bodies and physical spaces around them. Number four, every person is cognitive, meaning they have things they're thinking about. So my favorite category is when people ask me, Heather, what have you been thinking about?

Or what have you been learning? The last two categories are difficult, but so fruitful in conversation. The next one is volitional, meaning every, it's about choices.

Volition is human agency, like how we're making choices. So asking people about why they made a decision or what their upcoming decisions will be. And the last one is spiritual, that every person you meet has a soul and they actually think about spiritual things and they like to be asked about those things.

So although I didn't make an acronym or an easy way to remember it, when you look at someone, just think of all the dimensions of who they are. You can ask a social question, an emotional question, a physical question, cognitive, volitional, spiritual. You'll never get lost in conversation again, because even if you start in any one of those categories, so for example, the social category, if you said, Who are you going to the game with? And they tell you, the next question you ask can be one of those categories, volitional. How did you choose those friends to go with? You could ask about cognitive. When you're with these friends, like tell me what you guys think about and I'd love to know the kinds of conversations you have. You can ask a volitional question as well.

How did you get tickets to the game? You could go spiritual if you wanted, like is this something that you pray about? So you see how easy it is just to always think of those categories. It's been life changing to me, especially because when you listen for core values, you'll also be listening for what conversational pathway most delights your listener. And they will feel really loved if you ask questions in those categories. So most young people do not like the cognitive or spiritual pathway, but they love talking about their friends and their physical spaces, like their bedrooms, their dorm rooms, you know, so you can listen and learn. My husband loves it when I ask him about physical processes, his work systems, things he's working on in the yard. He's not going to want me to ask him about his deep emotions, you know, but I love it when he comes in the room and asks me a cognitive question, Heather, what have you been thinking about? So it's a really, it's a great way to express love to people as well. So what I hear you saying is that though all of these are things that humans typically are experiencing, it's a part of our reality, but for some of us, or maybe each of us, one or two or three of these would be areas where we feel more comfortable discussing it with another person.

That's right. And it's when I, when I wrote the book, I provided sort of assessments and ways you can break out of what I call your default conversational style. So for example, I love talking about spiritual topics and the cognitive realm, but I have a lot of friends who that does not bless them. They'd prefer me to ask about how are they sleeping at night?

You know, the physical aspect, or they love talking about their friendships. So I like to think, OK, what does this person like to talk about? And also I do an assessment.

OK, I'm only talking about cognitive things because I'm a professor. I love the world of ideas. So lately I've been starting in other categories to really bless people. So I'll ask people about new restaurants they're trying, you know, if they're enjoying their coffee. I'll stay in the physical realm and see if that's what the person wants to talk about because not everyone's gonna be like you. And so I love really blessing people by thinking, OK, what question do they seem to love to answer in what category? And I learned this more, most acutely with a friend who is grieving, which is a hard conversation. You never know, you know, what does someone want to talk about? I, of course, wanted to talk about spiritual things, but I noticed that when I asked about choices she was making when she was in the depth of grief. She got really excited about talking about rituals and things that she does to feel better.

So I stayed in that category of conversation, the volitional, what choices is she making in the midst of her grief? So how do you discover what other people actually like to talk about? Well, one thing you can do is notice if they're giving more than one word answers and just look at their body language. Sometimes when I'm with a young person, especially, you know, a preteen or a teen, and I'm asking, you know, what happened at school today? And you know, they don't want to talk about it. You know, you'll get one word answers.

That's another thing I learned is, you know, just keep trying. Go down the list and see, you know, what you'll get. And so usually what I discovered with young people, they do love to talk about their friends. So I'll say, you know, did anything funny happen at the lunch table or something related to their social life?

They'll open up. And so listen to what people want to talk about. Now, I talk in the book about different ways we've done that.

As you start off a conversation, listen for where you're getting more than one word answers, where people maybe have a rise in the speech volume, their body may become more animated. That's one way to tell what people really like to talk about. Let me go back to something we were talking about earlier. And that is, you know, sometimes conversations go wrong, as it were.

Can you redeem a rescue, a bad conversation? If you've, you know, you've had a conversation, you just walk away feeling like that didn't go really well. Well, that's happened to me a lot. And sometimes it's because I haven't been a good listener. Sometimes it's because I was really argumentative because I was a national debater. I know how to win an argument, but guess what?

Nobody feels warmly connected to me if I just won the argument. So I've had to go back, especially in marriage, especially with Ash and say, you know, I apologize. I ask if we could go back to what we were talking about and just try again. And then I'll ask a really good question. Or I'll say, you know, I can tell you really care a lot about this.

Can we go back and sort of start fresh? So you can rescue a conversation that's going badly, especially if it's an area of conflict. Like if someone's expressing a different political opinion or a social issue that you disagree on. If I feel myself getting angry or I can feel the stress coming and I can tell they're feeling tense, one way to rescue that conversation is just to say, I can tell you feel really passionately about this.

And I would love to know the story of when you first started caring about this issue. Bring it to the realm of their story, and that will calm everyone down. And then you can go back to the six conversations to keep the conversation about warm and loving connection and not trying to win an argument. Because if you win the argument, they lose, right? Usually.

That's my experience. At least in our marriage, Ash told me that, yeah, you won the argument, but we are not connected. There's no warm connection here. Yeah. No one wants to be married to a loser, so why create one, right? Exactly.

Yeah. You know, I had someone just recently say to me, talking about their teenage daughter, they said, you know, she just doesn't reach out to people. She's more of an introvert person and we're concerned that she doesn't, you know, have conversations.

What advice do you give to someone who, you know, what are the reasons for that or how would you advise that parent? Well, there's a lot of fear and self-consciousness in young people. And there's also happening in young people a profound lack of interpersonal curiosity, meaning, you know, my daughter goes to a school of 2,000 people and I'll say, did anyone ask you one question about your life today? And she will say, no.

You know, everyone's on their phone at the lunch table. So one thing I've been encouraging my teen daughters is, first of all, teaching them that even though they're afraid and self-conscious, the research shows that if you ask someone a personal question, it's pleasurable for them. They end up liking you more.

And it's what's called taking a pro-social risk. You've got to do it by faith. I tell my daughters, look, just try to ask someone one good question today and then we can record it in the journal and celebrate.

I mean, we're actually working on it. So you're not alone. Those listeners are not alone. And what I love is hearing the results of when a teen tries, even though they're afraid, to ask someone a personal question.

And usually the results are astonishing. Like when you ask someone like, you know, hey, what have you, even if, even if like a lot of people are on their phones and I've been telling people, you can actually make the phone part of the conversation and ask someone about what they're watching or how they got into a certain, you know, TikTok trend, whatever it is, just asking that question. Usually people are so lonely and so hungry for human connection that suddenly you're going to find that your teen has warm connections and you're going to start to see some significant improvement. And so part of it is practice and then reminding them of the research that people will like them.

And even though they think they're coming off as awkward and that nobody's going to like them, the research shows that people love to be asked questions and to just try it in any category of the six pathways. Thanks for joining us today for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Dr. Heather Holliman is the author of The Six Conversations, Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility. You can find out more about it at

That's Dr. Holliman, one of the things that I see, particularly with Christians who are having conversations with non-Christians is they want to get to the spiritual and they feel like, well, this may be my only chance and so they're afraid, you know, I really want to talk about this. But if the person on the other side is not ready to go into that realm, it could be counterproductive. So what do you say to people who are struggling in that area? Well, I love this question because I love evangelism. It's my primary spiritual gift and I love talking about Jesus. But what I found is once I've established the four mindsets and the three fresh goals with someone, meaning the conversation is about encouraging them, helping them in their personal growth areas and leading to marveling, what happens is when it's time to share my life, the gospel enters in so beautifully, so easily because the person already feels a warm connection with me. So it doesn't feel like I'm doing a sales pitch or making some kind of segue that doesn't make any sense.

It might be as easy as someone, you know, we're talking about work, and I could say to the person who valued excellence, I could say, you know, I've had experiences like that where I have just failed and have not been able to do my best. And I have to tell you that because of my relationship with Jesus, I've been able to experience that unconditional acceptance from God, and it has just changed my life to live in that love. Well my professor friend, who is an atheist, would say to me, man, you know, as an atheist I don't experience that. And then you get to move into, well, you know, you could move into a full gospel presentation, well here's what Christians believe and here's why we can experience it. So you don't have to ever feel like it's your only time to share and that it's not natural in the context of that warm, loving connection that you have, which is probably the reason why I have so many spiritual conversations with people who you would think are really hostile to the gospel, because we have a warm, loving connection.

You know, I think many Christians would profit if we understood what you just said and were willing to talk about other things and establish some kind of relationship before we start talking about what's really important to us. You know, at the end of your book, you have a chapter called The Greatest Conversation, and you take us back to the book of Genesis. Tell us what you discovered there and why having conversations with God matters for how we relate to others. Well, I loved and really did marvel about the idea that we have a God of loving conversation, and really the gospel is about Jesus enabling us to be in loving conversation. And I just love that the Trinity is, by nature, relational, and I just was overwhelmed with the beauty of this is what God cares about, that we would be connected with Him in conversation and that we would have that unity that Jesus prays for in John 17, that spirit of unity and true Christian fellowship. So, I just got really excited that this is really the heart of God. And so, I went back to how we see God asking good questions in Genesis, and I became really excited about the nature of the questions, because they are also kind of a beautiful gospel presentation.

So, if you remember in Genesis, when God approaches Adam and Eve after the fall, so you're reading about this kind of moment where God finds them, He asks three questions. Where are you? Who told you you were naked? And what have you done? And in my journal, I thought, what are these questions?

What categories are these, and what is this? And I love this idea of where are you, meaning where are you in relation to God? Where is He to you? Who is He?

Where are you? Are you hiding from Him? And the second, who told you you were naked? I just was overwhelmed when I thought, you know what, that's really a question of who in the culture are you authorizing to tell you who you are? I thought, okay, God, you are the one who tells me who I am, no one else.

And then the third question, what have you done? That volitional category, it really gets to the heart of, we are making terrible choices. Everything we do is in opposition to God. We cannot help but sin against Him, and our need for a Savior is so powerful in that moment, the need for rescue. And then I thought, okay, that is a powerful conversation. And then I compare it to what we see when Jesus talks to the woman at the well. It's a very similar conversation. The parallels are there, but what happens is you see what happens when there's a Savior on the scene who offers forgiveness of sin, who tells this woman who she is that she can have living water. I mean, it's so beautiful to think of the way God talks to her. So that book ends, my book ends with this idea of having loving conversation with God for the rest of your life that will really fuel your ability to love other people well in conversation. It makes sense if we can talk with God, we should be able to talk with others, right?

Yes. Well, you can talk to God. A lot of people don't have the, I don't know if you'd call it the discipline or the spiritual rituals of really conversing with God each day. He is a God of loving conversation. He wants you to talk to Him in prayer and He will speak to you through His Word, through the Holy Spirit. It is overwhelming and marvelous when you think about that we have a God that wants to talk to us. You know, that certainly has been my experience, Heather.

The personal time with God, nothing, nothing can take the place of that. You know, one of the things that I appreciate about your book is that in all these categories we've talked about, you have actual questions listed under all these things that will help people think about, you know, the kind of questions they can ask. I think that's helpful for most of us because we tend to get into a routine and a habit in our conversations and fail to recognize that they could be, conversations could be much more meaningful if we applied some of these things. So I want to thank you for first of all being with us today because this has been so helpful. And secondly, I want to thank you for the research you've done, the work you've done on pulling all this together. You know, as an author, I know that books like this don't just happen. It's when we give what we have to God and God guides us in writing books that are helpful to people.

So I believe this is a book that God has used you to give us. And I'm hoping that many, many of our listeners are going to get this book and start reading it and applying it in their own lives. So may God bless you and continue to guide you in all that you're doing and also with your husband, Ashley.

Thank you so much. What a helpful conversation about the six conversations today with Dr. Heather Holloman. If you want to find out more about the featured resource, go to the website, The title again, the six conversations, pathways to connecting in an age of isolation and incivility. Just go to And next week, if reading the Bible through in one year has been a goal of yours, don't miss some help and hope for finishing that journey through the scriptures. Hear encouragement from Trillion Newbell in one week. Our thanks to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Backing. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in Chicago in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry at Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-08 05:17:59 / 2023-01-08 05:36:53 / 19

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