Hey there, David Robbins here, President of Family Life, and I am joined here with my wife Meg.
Hey, everybody. Before we jump into today's program, we want you to know that each time you listen to family life, we pray you experience a deeper relationship with God. And just like you, so many others have been blessed through all of these programs. Here's what one faithful listener and partner had to say about family life today.
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They want conversations where nobody's going to judge them, and they can be free to talk about what they need to talk about. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Dave Wilson. And I'm Ann Wilson. And you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app.
This is Family Life Today. Have you ever heard of anybody being called the exclamation point woman? No. She's sitting in the studio.
I'm pretty excited about it, too. I don't know if it's accurate or not, but I heard her once give a message, and she said on campus they call her the exclamation point professor. The walking exclamation point, yep. That's what you're called. Sometimes. Sometimes.
I have been called that before, yes. Well, we're talking to Dr. Heather Holliman, who's a professor at Penn State. You're a mom of two. You've been married how many years? We're coming up on 23 years. And you've been a professor at Penn State for how long?
About 15 years. Okay. So what does the exclamation point- Why would I call that? Yeah, why do they call you that? Well, I bring a lot of energy, obviously. And in the morning in particular, I'm really energetic. I like to keep class super lively. There's always a lot of fun, and so they always joke about how much energy I have and what my secret is to all the energy.
So that's where that came from. What do you do? What's something you do that's fun in the class?
I'm thinking of college classes. I'm not imagining fun or creative. Well, if you walk into my classroom, there's always going to be music playing because I have the class contribute to a Spotify playlist so I can know what kind of music everyone likes. And there's always an attendance question, which is a really fun question that everyone has to answer.
So what kind of questions do you ask? Well, I'll ask really fun questions like, what's the best meal you've ever eaten on campus? Or what's a movie you think everyone should see?
And what's a movie you think no one should see? It's just a way to start class every single day. And then I usually have a short lecture or they'll have activities they have to do. I always try to bring in video and lively PowerPoints. And this is an advanced writing class.
Yes. So they have to write. I mean, it's intense right now. They're doing research projects.
They have to research scholarly journals and learn how to annotate them and do all sorts of things. So it's a hard class. And I'm guessing your classes are sold out. I do. Come on.
Go ahead, Frank. Yeah, they come. I like to pride myself on perfect attendance. That's not always true post-COVID. But yes. So, no, it's fun. I love being a college professor.
I love that age. You've got to be every student. They want to take one of your classes.
I'm guessing. I do get a lot of students who like my class, mostly because I really do believe in them and I want the best for them. And I work really hard to help them achieve their goals. So I'm pretty devoted to my student. And once you're my student, you're always my student. So I'll always be there helping them. I get emails 10 years later for, you know, if they need help with anything.
Sometimes I'll get wedding invitations, that kind of thing. I have never emailed a college prof. Have you gone to office hours at least? I did. He gave me a D on a paper when I shared my faith.
And I felt like, did you give me a D because it was written poorly or was it the topic? Good question. Yeah. Well, I was just thinking I've never emailed one because they didn't make a mark on my life.
Like you are. I mean, they're emailing you because you have, you've made a mark on your life. And you're modeling for us the book we're going to talk about today, The Six Conversations. I mean, before we met you walking in the hallway, you had already asked me five questions.
I did. Yes, she's a great conversationalist. And the subtitle of The Six Conversations is Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility.
That's right. I was highly motivated to research and write this book because of just the culture. Not only of what I see on campus, on the college campus, but just research reports coming out about how lonely and isolated people are. I was looking at the Cigna Health study of 20,000 U.S. adults that said almost half the population reports not having meaningful conversations.
And the Harvard Grant study, longest research study ever. And it's maybe 85th year and they say that the single most determining factor of a happy life is warm connections, warm relationships. So I was seeing the lack of that and I thought, I really have to do something. I have to, you know, teaching on the college campus, I thought, can I teach people how to have a loving connection? How to have a really good conversation so they're not only less lonely. But as someone who wrote the book Sent, I wanted people to get better in their ability to talk to each other about things that really matter, like their faith in Jesus. I'm wondering, I'm thinking of the listener, when was the last time you had a really deep, meaningful conversation? Like just that question, I think that kind of makes us sit back and think, oh, is that something I have on a regular basis?
Or is that something I haven't had in a long time? Right. And you're saying that's really important. It's really important for mental health and also physical health. One thing about the book is I read all the research, all the available social science research. And then I also look at what the Bible has to say about why conversations would matter and how to have them well. So I love this book because it's practical.
It's not an academic book, but it has all the research behind it that will help you have a loving connection and get to those meaningful conversations. Yeah, it's super, super practical. Yeah, it's easy. But here's my question. I'm an introvert.
Which he's not, by any means. Yeah, I was looking at you like, okay, someone's not telling the truth. I'm pretending I'm an introvert, you know, and I hear this discussion. I'm like, yeah, but I don't even really like to talk to people.
Do I have to? You're so funny because, you know, my husband is an introvert and I say he's like the proof of concept for this book because he is more introverted and more reserved. But what you find is when you see the research behind the benefits of having a warm and loving connection and some of the mindsets that you would need in order to increase your happiness and also live a more biblical life. You know, he was really motivated to connect in these ways and he found himself reaching out on, you know, airplanes or to friends in new ways. Because the mindsets, once you learn the four mindsets, they're really easy to learn and really transformative and can help you really grow in your art of conversation. Let's go. Let me say this too, just a shout out to the introverts.
I feel like introverts can have the deepest conversations. They can. That's right. Yeah. That's right. Whoa, whoa, whoa.
Explain that one. You can't just throw out this and Heather goes, yeah, yeah, and I'm over here. Like, what do you mean?
Well, I mean, I'm an extrovert and so I think it can be easy for some of us just to have the conversation just on the surface level. You know what she's talking about? How are you doing? What's going on?
She's talking about her husband. That's what she's doing. We can all do that.
She's not even looking at me, but that's what I do. I can easily go to a party, walk down the street, and I can talk superficial all day long. Right.
Which I cannot do that for long. I remember being in a group at a birthday event for all my girlfriends. I love them and I want to know them, but we were talking about nothing, which is fine to do. But after a while, this is probably so rude, I'm like, you guys, we're talking about nothingness. Like, let's go deep.
I want to know what's happening in your lives, which they probably were so offended, but it's because I love them and I want to know them. I mean, when we first started in our NFL ministry with the Lions, I know I just mentioned football, but here we are. And a player's over at our house and he's a very well-known player. I won't even tell you who he is. He and his wife, young married. I think he was a rookie that season.
And again, this is 30 years ago and he's still well-known, probably be in the Hall of Fame someday. Ann looks across the dinner table and says to him, hey, let's talk about your marriage. How's your marriage doing? He literally looks at her, left the kitchen. He goes out. So I go out into the living room like, dude, what's going on? Wait, let me just say, like, I knew his wife and I knew they're in their first year of marriage and she's like struggling a little bit. So I'm like, you guys, how are you doing? What's going on? And then he just gets up and leaves.
Yeah. And he told me, he goes, that's just too intimate of a question for me. I don't even know what to say. I'm just, it's awkward.
He had never really gone there. So coach us up. Do you not do that? Yes, I'll coach you up.
Well, here are things, this is what I learned about what needs to happen in every conversation in order for you to have a warm connection and invite a warm connection from another person. By the way, listeners, you better be writing this down. Yeah, write this down. Or put this in your phone or whatever. And think of this, you need this for your family even.
Yes, this is perfect for how I connect with my daughters and my husband, my neighbors, my colleagues, my students. So in every conversation, four things need to be happening. You have to be curious, believe the best, express concern, and share your life.
Now, if one of those is missing, you're not going to have that warm and loving connection. And if you move through each of the mindsets, a lot of people are not doing well in one of those categories. For example, you may just not be curious about other people, but it's a skill to develop, to ask questions, to really believe that the person in front of you is like a marvelous gift to figure out who they are, what they care about.
And believing the best. A lot of us are approaching our friends with suspicion and judgment. And especially in this culture, we tend to be vetting people. Like when you meet someone, you wonder who did they vote for, what did they believe about vaccines, all of those things. And then expressing concern means that you really are invested in what's happening with people. What are their major stressors? What's keeping them up at night? You know, what major decisions do they have to make?
And then it's your turn to share your life. And a lot of people don't do that well. And all of those terms, you know, they have research terms like interpersonal curiosity, positive regard, investment, and mutual sharing. But, you know, the social science is great, but I wanted to know if the Bible supported all of that. And you find all of those mindsets in Philippians 2 where Paul says to take an interest in other people, value them above yourselves.
You'll find it in Romans 12, Galatians 6. It's beautiful to hold up all the social science to what Scripture has already told us about the mindsets you need first in order to connect well with people. So, Heather, as you go through those four, like what was missing for you growing up? Well, I grew up as a military child, and so we moved a lot. And I just experienced profound loneliness. And I think what was missing for me was expressing concern for other people, taking on their interests. I talked all the time.
As maybe you can tell, I had high articulation needs, as they say. And then I wasn't good at sharing my life with people. Even though I talked a lot, I wouldn't really share things that were going on with me. I wouldn't be vulnerable with people. And then at certain seasons of my life, I've struggled believing the best about people.
In my marriage, we were having a really difficult season of our marriage, and it was because I was always judgmental and not believing the best about him. So those mindsets really represent maturity for me, if you can grow in all those areas as you interact with people, especially children. They want to know that you believe the best about them, that you're not approaching them with judgment or suspicion about their lives. I mean, if you start with be curious, are there some questions?
Are there some ways that you can help us? I mean, when I walked in, literally, you walked right up, said hello, I'm Heather, and they said, hey, tell me about, you were at the Detroit Lions, blah, blah, blah, I used to live in Michigan. You were curious from the start. So obviously, as someone hearing that question, I'm like, wow, I like her. Well, it does, they call that liking. Yes, when you ask questions, it increases what's called liking. Now, a lot of people think, oh, it's rude or nosy, I don't want to ask personal questions. But the research shows that when you do that, and even if it's an inappropriate question, people like you more. Now, with the football player example, it probably made him nervous because there was something that he didn't want to talk about. But I don't think it meant that he didn't like you.
It was more about him feeling nervous to share, perhaps, is the way I think about it. But to get to curiosity, it's really a disposition of the heart that you really value them above yourselves. They have something to teach you.
They are representing a unique facet of God. They're going to teach you something that you would not know otherwise. Also, I like to believe that when you're talking to someone, every conversation has the potential to be a life-changing conversation. Like, have you ever had a conversation that changed your life forever? Yeah.
Right? Okay, but what I really think you're asking is how did I come up with the questions to ask? Is that what you were wondering? Like, how did I know what to ask you? Yeah, in some ways, if I'm not, again, if a listener is not a curious person, they're like, where do I start?
I'm not really that curious. I mean, Anne does this. We would have couples over, and as they're leaving, almost every time as they're leaving our house, they would almost 100%. I'm probably 100%. They would say something like, wow, we just had the best time here tonight. And I'm sitting there going, I know why. All we did was talk about you all night.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. They didn't ask you questions back. Anne asked, Anne asked, Anne asked. And I mean, that's a good thing, but she is so curious. She kept asking them questions that they loved it because it honored them. Yes. We just had this conversation two days ago where we're kind of opposite in terms of we get a group of people.
I want to know everything about them. Don't tell them what we don't. You don't think I should?
Go ahead. But Dave said, sometimes you ask too many questions. Like, you're like, it's overwhelming. I think you're overwhelming people. And tell them what you told me. I said, sometimes you're just telling too many stories. Like, who cares?
Like, let's ask them about them. And so it's this. And you know what? She's right. No, and you're probably right.
Nope, you're right. I think I sometimes, you guys are so funny. I think maybe I can overwhelm someone with my questions.
Yes. It's good not to do like a rapid fire interview with that. You know, I struggle with that too. But what I love about this book and how easy it is, is it's called The Six Conversations, Pathways to Connecting. Anytime you're with someone, you can think of the six dimensions of what it means to be human. And those are pathways of how to ask really great questions in each of those categories.
And then you're going to determine what your conversation partner actually wants to talk about. So the six dimensions of being human, every person you see is social. They have friends. They're physical, meaning their bodies and physical spaces. They're emotional.
And a lot of people go there first. Like, how are you feeling? How are you doing?
They're cognitive, which means they're thinking about things. That's actually my favorite question to ask people is, what have you been thinking about lately? I often don't say, how are you feeling or what, you know, how are you today?
I'll say, I haven't seen you in a while. What have you been thinking about? And I learned so much just asking that question. The last two categories are volitional and spiritual. Volitional means that everyone you meet makes choices. That's human volition, your ability to make choices and act on them.
So it's really about decisions people are making, what choices they're making, how they decided something. And I like asking people that, you know, especially if they're wearing something new, I'll say, I love your outfit. How did you decide, you know, to wear that dress? How did you decide to buy that dress? Just ask them their decision-making process, what went into it.
She just asked me this in the bathroom, by the way. And then spiritual is my favorite category. It's hard to start in the spiritual category, but you can. You can ask people, you know, I haven't seen you in a while.
I would love to know just what have you been thinking about God? Or, you know, it's more awkward because if you don't know the person well, it's hard to ask a question in that category. But I love using the structure of the six conversations because you'll never get lost in conversation again.
And whatever someone answers, you have endless permutations of where to go next. So when I asked Dave about the time with football, if you noticed, I was interested in what it did, the impact it had on your body. That's physical. I wanted to know, did you have injuries? And I didn't know if you wanted to talk about it because I was listening, like, is he answering in more than one word?
Does he seem animated about it? And you wanted to tell the story about the longest pass, you know, the intercept. I won't bring it up. But I was just noticing, like, what does he want to talk about? But I could have asked a social question, like, what were your favorite friendships from that time? Or cognitive, you know, what were you thinking about when that... Well, I actually did ask you that after the football pass, you know, what was that like? How did, you know, whatever. Spiritually, I asked, how did you handle that? You weren't a Christian yet.
What did you, how did you recover? And then I could have gone on and on based on whatever you answered. I just could have run down the list and observed the category that you like talking about most. That's interesting that as you recall that conversation, you were literally going through... She's going through the whole process.
It's easy. On the other side of that, even reading your book, Six Conversations, I didn't even know you were doing it. It just felt like a conversation. Yeah, a lot of people are like, isn't this artificial? You're going down a list.
Or a formula. No, it's just paying attention and being really curious and figuring out what people love to talk about. And then you can have a really warm connection. So often people love to talk about their bodies and physical spaces, but nobody asks questions about that. So asking someone, for example, how they've been sleeping at night. People actually like to talk about sleeping, their sleep rituals, how they're sleeping, or especially with older people. They often like and need to talk about the changes, like pain they're experiencing and having someone listen to what it's like to grow older. People also love to be able to process decision making, things like that. It's interesting as I'm looking at your four mindsets, I'm thinking of a parent with their children. And the second one, believe the best, is so critical.
Huge. Because as I'm looking at that, if I'm not believing the best about my teenage daughter or son, let's say hypothetical, this whole conversation goes a different way. It falls apart. I get curious for a wrong reason. Like I'm asking you questions because I'm trying to catch you in something because I believe I'm doing something behind my back. You know, I'm expressing concern, which is not, I really care about you.
I want to stop this behavior. And then I share my own story. It could go the other way. So that believe the best is critical. Am I right?
It is. In fact, the whole structure falls apart if one of the mindsets is missing. And you're absolutely right. I have people that are very curious about me. They might even express concern. They might share their life, but I know that they already are judging me or they don't believe the best about me.
Or the other three mindsets could be true. They believe the best. They maybe will express concern and share their life, but they will not ask me one question about my life. So I spent time with a couple. My husband and I were really excited to spend time with them. Our families were together.
We spent eight hours. They did not ask us one question about our lives. We left feeling lonely, disconnected, and really unsatisfied with how that went.
You know, we could ask them a lot of questions, but it was never kind of returned. And that's really hard. It's a real challenge to people to think, you know, be curious, believe the best, express concern, share your life.
If you don't share your life, it comes off as an interview. So you need that last one. See, hon, you're sharing your life for good balance. That's what I'm doing, honey.
No, you're really good because a lot of people don't understand why you need all four. So you got right to the what's going to happen if I don't believe the best. And Generation Z, the number one priority is they want to be spoken to without judgment.
If you look at the studies on belonging and Generation Z is the loneliest generation, they want conversations where nobody's going to judge them and they can be free to talk about what they need to talk about. So I think about that when I'm with my students or with people who believe totally different things than I do. I just want to believe the best. There's a story behind why they believe what they believe and me trying to figure out that story and not judge them. Even if it's a completely wild political opinion I don't agree with or maybe behavior that I think is wrong, instead of judging them, I want to know the story.
Tell me how you decided to do that or tell me more about how you arrived at this political position. I'm really curious. And they'll know if you're believing the best. They'll know they can tell. So you have to really believe it in your heart that people are trying to do their best. There's always a story behind why they believe what they believe. Well, it's also interesting if you think about the be curious. If a person isn't curious, again, I'm making a judgment here. It sort of indicates if I'm not asking questions about people I know, even my own spouse, I'm selfish.
I really don't care. It's all about me. It's like what would that look like in a marriage to say your interests are more important than mine, Philippians 2. Have the same mindset that Christ had. Just apply that to your marriage. You would probably start with, I need to ask her some questions.
I need to ask him, I want to know my spouse. And so often we drift toward isolation because we're just not willing to have the conversation to say this conversation is not about me. I want to love you. And it's going to start this way. Tell me about your day.
Yes. Or here's a great question. If you feel disconnected from your spouse or children or anyone, you can say we haven't connected in a while. What question are you hoping I'll ask you about your life?
That's a good one. And with my husband, he loves the physical category. He loves physical spaces, physical processes. When I ask about woodworking or take a real interest in anything he's building, a system or whatever, he loves that.
He knows that I love the cognitive category and I love talking about what I'm learning in Scripture. So it's an act of love to know what your spouse and children like to talk about. My children love to talk about their friends. They love to talk about music, food. They don't want me to ask them what their deep thoughts are about a passage of Scripture they read.
They don't want that right now. Right. So I just like to get the warm connection based on what they enjoy talking about.
I have two thoughts. But if I think back to our tenth year, which our listeners know about, it's the year that Anne said, I've lost my feelings for you. When we were coming through that, one of the things you said to me when we go out on a date, you said, would you ask me this question on our dates? And she said, write this down.
This is back in the pencil and paper days. I literally get out of things. She says, just ask me this when we go out. What's that? How are you doing?
Yeah. And I'm like, how are you doing? She goes, you don't ask me that. And as I realized, my whole life was about me.
The reason she lost feelings for me is I'm all about me, my job, my ministry, my future. I'm never stopping to just ask that simple question, be curious. How are you doing as a mom, as my wife? And so my answer to you on the other side is there have been many times I've asked a wife, so what's your husband literally do at work? And they're like, I don't know, he's something with computers. I'm like, your husband really would love to talk about that. That is really important to us. This is what I do all day.
And again, some husband may be going, I don't really want her to know. I think that's what I love it when you ask me, tell me about your job. You're writing a sermon. What's it about? Why are you going this way instead of that way?
What do you feel when you're on stage? Ooh, that's volitional. All that kind of stuff. You want people to ask you, hey, how'd you decide to do that passage? Yeah.
And make that move. You've been in an interview. Why did you go there?
That's the coach coming out. That is true. The play. How are you choosing to do that?
What do you see that we don't see in the future that made you decide to do that? There you go. One other great application for today would be to ask your husband, to ask your kids this question. Do you feel like I believe the best in you? Yeah, they know. They totally know the answer. And I would say this too. Pray before you have that conversation. Because especially if you have teenagers, our kids spoke truth to us, man, and it was hard to hear sometimes. And so ask God to give you the ears to hear what they have to say. And when they say, because they may say, I do not believe you believe the best. Do not get in an argument and say, yes, I do.
Yeah, don't get defensive. Say, you're right. Tell me more. Tell me more. Why do you feel that way? And listen, because I think God wants to grow you.
That is so good, Anne. The other thing that is good with kids is to let them know you're carrying their burdens with them. Galatians 6, to find out what their major stressors are. After you ask that, say, look, I really want to help carry your burdens and pray for you. Let them unburden themselves.
What are the major stressors? What thoughts keeping you up at night? You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Heather Holliman on Family Life Today. You know, Anne used to make her son feel judged when she'd say this one thing in particular, and she had no idea it came across that way.
You'll hear what it was in just a minute. But first, Heather's book is called The Six Conversations, Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility. You can pick up a copy at familylifetoday.com. You know, we hear feedback from you all the time about how things are going here at Family Life Today. And one particular listener said this, Dave and Anne feel close. They are the kind of people you want to have as friends and mentors.
They're so warm and also super funny. I've learned a lot, and the shows are always helpful in my walk with God. And it's super encouraging to read things like that. So we want to help continue to make comments and interactions like this possible because of what God is doing here at Family Life Today. And thanks to some thoughtful ministry partners, our matching gift fund is even bigger now. So every gift given up through the end of the year, including your gift right now, will be matched dollar for dollar until we hit $2.3 million.
You can give today at familylifetoday.com, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, here's Anne with what she used to say to her son. My adult son just said, I don't like it when you do this, is I would say, I'm worried about you. I thought I was like being empathetic, like, oh, I care about you.
He said, what I hear you saying is, you're failing. Yeah. And I don't like what I'm seeing, which I said, oh, that's not what I'm feeling at all, but I'm concerned you're not, you know? And I'm like, oh, I've never thought of it.
He said it feels disrespectful to me. Wow. Isn't that? I wonder if you had changed the verb.
Yes. Like, I'm so curious. How is this going? How's it going? Yeah, or I'm really interested in how you guys are working on this thing or whatever. But that word, worried, communicates that I'm not trusting him with what he's doing. You're actually right on with choosing the right word in the question. That's why questions like, how was your day, never land well. People hate the verb was. It's too existential. It doesn't land well in the brain.
It's actually stressful for the brain, according to neuroscience. So when you put a strong verb in there, don't say to your children, you know, how was your day? Instead say, did anything surprise you about your day?
Awesome. Did anything challenge you? Did anything make you laugh? They will open up and it will be a really delightful conversation. Have you ever been in a boring conversation when someone's talking and they're like, yada, yada, yada.
And then a thought comes and you kind of wonder what you'll be eating later on. And then unexpectedly you hear, right, Shelby? Well, maybe not Shelby, but you hear your name and you go, huh?
OK, I can't be the only one who's ever been there before. Well, let's quit having these kinds of conversations. Well, tomorrow on Family Life Today, David and Wilson talk again with Heather Holloman about what relationships could look like if we start to listen well. That's tomorrow. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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