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Overcoming Incivility: Heather Holleman

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
December 16, 2022 3:00 am

Overcoming Incivility: Heather Holleman

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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December 16, 2022 3:00 am

In a world thrashed by incivility, professor Heather Holleman describes researched-based techniques for rediscovering conversations that connect us.

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So I feel like I'm sitting in the studio with two of the best conversationalists in one room. Well, it's not me.

Yes, it is. You are amazing. I marvel at how you draw out people anywhere, everywhere, walking down the sidewalk in our neighborhood, in the airport. Does it bug you? Yes. At times, I'm like, can we just, I mean, you're so good and you ask so many great, great questions, people want to talk to you and I just leave.

You're so funny. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson and you can find us at or on our Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. Heather Holloman is back with us. She wrote the book. Oh, Heather. I did. You have been such a joy. I feel like we could talk to you forever. Well, I feel the same. See, we have a loving connection already. We do. We have warmth. We've increased our happiness.

Let's talk again about the six conversations, pathways to connecting in an age of isolation and incivility. We are living in this. Of course, you know this.

That's why you wrote it. And you have your doctorate. You're working as a professor with students, so you see this every day. Yes. Is our culture changing? Is this something that's more difficult now than it has been? I think it is more difficult now because I use the word incivility to talk about a particular cultural moment. You know, students worry about cancel culture.

They worry about saying the wrong thing. Some researchers call it the outrage industry that we've addicted ourselves to controversy and anger and divisiveness. And so it's a real opportunity to figure out how to reconnect in loving ways. And when you do that, you actually have a greater chance for social change, I feel like. So it's just something I care about deeply is helping students feel a sense of belonging and connection. And right now there's a lot of fear of connecting in conversation because of the cultural moment.

Yeah, I feel that. That's what I wanted to ask you. Yes. The incivility is real.

Yes. So sometimes you just resist entering a conversation. I feel like I'm always going to offend someone.

Right, right. We're afraid of offending people. We're afraid of them judging us.

And you're just hoping the conversation doesn't go anywhere near these controversial, don't talk about vaccines or politics or masks. And I'm not talking just strangers. I'm talking about our own family members.

Friends and family. We've blocked people on Facebook. People are deleting accounts. They won't go home for holidays because their families voted differently or believe something different about vaccines. We've also seen churches torn apart.

And that is the saddest for me, I think, just the division happening. So I've learned through the process of researching this book really never to be afraid of a conversation again. Because if you are curious, believe the best, express concern and share your life, you really are in a great mindset to just listen to people. Figure out why they believe what they believe. Try to understand them. Try to understand what they want, what they're passionate about, and also to get to the personal. Like, a lot of times we talk about politics, but really, maybe they have a child at home who's sick that they're worried about.

Or maybe they're nervous about an upcoming decision. You can move it from the realm of, you know, heavier topics to something closer to home. And that can help form a warm connection. Why is this so important to you? I just deeply care about helping students belong and probably because I grew up longing for connection and never figuring out how to make a connection with someone.

And I would use all sorts of tactics like flattery or, you know, I just wanted people to like me and I didn't understand what a loving connection was. It's that and it's that I know the research behind well-being and also spiritual health. We need warm connections. God created us for that. And we really reflect him when we're in loving connection with other people. I was going to say, we've been talking to you on prior episodes and you are an evangelist. I love talking about Jesus.

Yes, that's my favorite thing. And I feel like you create this pathway of the gospel that's so easy and because you're not threatening. And the way you approach people, it opens the door to hear about Jesus and your faith.

And you're bold about it, but you're really gracious. Well, part of it is when you approach someone and you have a loving connection with them already. Because again, the mindset, you believe the best, you're curious, you express concern and you're willing to share your life.

The gospel presentation doesn't come off as like a sales pitch. It's just natural. You're just sharing your life and people are asking questions. I mean, I have a lot of friends in my life who are atheists or from a different religious position and it's never hostile. It's always just rooted in curiosity. Let me share what Christians believe. And it's wonderful to see how God works in those moments and how people come to faith because they've had a loving conversation.

I mean, there's a lot I want to talk about. Your book is so practical. You used a word just a minute ago that I want to hear your thoughts on, listening.

Yes. Oh, I learned so much. I was a terrible listener. Yeah, I think we live in a culture that we don't listen well. You can't express concern to somebody if you haven't listened to their concerns. Because we're ready with our retort of what we're going to say next.

And in marriage, it's huge. You don't listen. So coach us up. I will tell you, this was my favorite chapter to write because no one ever taught me what I'm listening for. This is going to change your life. When someone is speaking to you, listen for what their core values are and say back to them what you're hearing. For example, I asked my neighbor who I did not have a warm connection with yet. He was walking his dog and I said, what are your plans for the weekend? And he said, well, I'm really upset because my son was supposed to come but he changed the plan.

And then I thought we were going to have these seats. But then this got messed up and he was going on and on about all his plans changing. I looked at him and I said, it really sounds like you value order and your schedule and having the itinerary in place. He paused and looked at me and said, I do.

I really do. You're like a therapist. And then he said, walk with me.

Come on. He was ready to talk. And then I tried it again with a businesswoman that I really wanted to form a bond with and we were acquaintances. But I thought, you know what, I want to connect with her more. And I asked her about her day and she was talking about projects that she had completed where she didn't feel like she had done her best work. And I kept noticing she keeps talking about whether or not something's her best work. So I said to this woman, you know, it really sounds like you value excellence and you don't know what to do if you feel like you've turned something in that isn't your best work. And she said, I do. You said walk with me.

I really do. No, this is what she said. Will you come to my office next week talking to you is the best part of my week.

She did not. And now we are dear friends. We have lunch every week. You didn't say for 150 an hour I'll do that.

I mean, it's core values. And I've tried it with people who are in a hard situation, people who are grieving, people who are in trauma situations. A woman ran up to me in the grocery store and kind of threw herself on me. She was crying. This isn't a stranger.

No, this is a friend. But, you know, in situations like that, I thought, OK, just listen. But what am I listening for? And so as she shared what was going on with her, I said to her, it sounds like you really value being prepared. And right now you feel unprepared. She stood back and my daughters were watching this. She stood back and she was like, that's exactly it. And I said, well, can I help you get prepared?

Like, what can I do? Remember, express concern. Well, my daughters afterwards, they were like, Mom, you are like a genius. Like, how do you, because they've observed me in all these situations. And I said, look, girls, you're listening for what you really see people valuing. And when you put words to it, they feel so loved.

They feel so seen. It's wonderful. And it was funny because we were at the doctor and the doctor actually said something about my core value.

And we just started laughing so hard. I want to hear it. OK, well, I was with my daughter at the doctor. He did the thing he needed to do in five minutes. He said, I'm not even going to make you come back in.

I'm going to call you tomorrow and the prescription is waiting for you. He said, I know you value efficiency. I said, I 100 percent do. I deeply value efficiency. It's the military daughter in me. I think I do not like wasting people's time. I don't like my time being.

It's probably a sin issue. I love efficiency. So people bless me when they help me become efficient. It's really weird, but I feel loved when people are like, Heather, you really value efficiency.

How can I help make this faster for you? Isn't that weird? Well, this whole conversation I'm going through in my head of conversations in our home. Yeah. And to recognize the core value and empathize like, oh, I'm thinking that would change so much. Oh, as a parent. That's what I'm saying.

Let's say for instance. As a husband, as a wife. I know. I'm sitting here thinking of when I'm driving with Dave, he is complaining about all the drivers. How are we going here? How are we driving wrong? Go anywhere else in here. It's empty value strategy.

Well, that's what I was going to say. And I'm complaining that he's always complaining about everyone driving. And so instead of complaining, I should empathize and think, what's his core value? You should compliment me. And you value positive communication. You don't like environments of complaining, it sounds like. Oh, no. Yeah, not when it happens every day and every time you're in the car.

Yes. But with children, I'll tell you, children, they will light up because often they don't even have words to explain their own personality. So my daughter loves beautiful things. She loves clothes. She loves having her room so beautiful. And I told you the other day, you really love aesthetic, like using that word for her. You love beauty.

This is how God made you. You love things that look wonderful, like she's probably going to be some kind of interior designer or something. Yeah.

My other daughter deeply values science and the scientific process and logical things. So just acknowledging that, you like order. Things do not go well for you if something doesn't seem logical to you. So things like that.

It really makes a difference. So Dave, now when we're driving, I'm saying, you really, I'm going to say, don't even try. Don't even try. I am in sin when we're driving. No, but it is true. Did you call it strategy? I'm strategic. Well, I think the football person in you and the sermon, you'll go ahead and tell me. Yeah, the thing I loved about football still to this day was the strategic plan. I love dissecting a defense and trying to find the weakness and attack it. More than anything else, it was like, oh, I could be an offensive coordinator.

I probably couldn't, but I loved that part of it. So yeah, you're right about the strategic part. And that's what happens in the car. Yeah, you know how they should be.

You could easily turn right on red. But I'm in sin because I'm selfish. But I want to ask this. So if we're not listening well, is it a selfish arrogance pride issue? Because if I'm talking all the time and I'm not really taking time to listen to you, I think I'm very selfish.

It's hard work to listen. Well, it's a supreme act of love to give someone your full attention. And I did find a wonderful definition of arrogance that's in the book. A wonderful definition. It says that arrogant people, they really believe that they don't need anything from other people. They don't believe other people can teach them anything.

They walk around superior. And it really is a disposition of the heart where you put yourself above other people. And what I love about the six conversations is when you're curious and have the disposition that you're going to value others above yourself. Think about the end of Philippians 2, Jesus taking on the nature of a servant.

It really makes things so wonderful when you do that. And also, when you're listening for core values, you also have to be humble because someone's core value may be the opposite of what you value. So in my marriage, I value efficiency, my husband values slow, deliberative thought processes.

He will take two weeks to make a decision that I already made an hour ago. So he knows my core value, I know his core value. We have to figure out how to meet in the middle. So yeah, we should come to one of your conferences and talk about it. Although we have a little bit of that too. Yeah, you guys have that problem where you have opposite core values. Dave just a little, yeah, more of a processor. He likes to follow through. I'm always doing this.

On the one hand we could, on the other. I'm like, no, this is it. I already made this decision.

And I'm already wanting to move in it. But what you were saying earlier, I was thinking, okay, in a conflict, could be a marital conflict, could be with your kids, could be any conflict. Listening is so important. And here's what happens, I think, to your point of arrogance, is I don't want to listen to what you're feeling or saying right now because I know better what you should be doing and thinking. I'm going to slam that down on you. Isn't that arrogance? It's like conflicts could go so much further if we just shut up and listen to start. And that was me because I was a national debater and won debates.

I was at Harvard quarterfinals, went to camps, Dartmouth, Michigan. Oh, you'd be terrible to be married to. You need Ash here. You need to bring Ash on your program because the number one thing he says in an argument is, okay, you're going to win this debate and it's going to be terrible for our marriage. Like, I can win any argument. It's not good for our marriage. I stopped doing that.

Occasionally he'll say, you're doing it again because I like you. I already see the problems in your thinking. And here's my five-point rebuttal to why everything you're saying is wrong. So now just understanding his core values and it kind of helps me, too, when I researched what the goal of conversation is. I was going to say, let's get into those three fresh goals for conversation. Because a lot of people think, okay, I'm at a party. I ask these questions, but then how do I end the conversation or what leads to the warm connection?

And it's three things that are really profoundly biblical. In every conversation, you should be thinking, how can I encourage this person? How can I help them in their own personal growth goals?

Like, how can I come alongside them, projects or goals? And the research shows if you can bring someone to a state of awe or marveling about something, it creates a warm connection and it makes you feel less lonely. So if you and I went outside and saw a beautiful bird together or like an alligator, because don't you guys have these here? If we together were like, can you believe we saw that? We would feel closer, less lonely, and it also increases creativity when you're in a state of awe. Because we marveled together. Yes, we talked about this earlier, how you do that when you go on walks. You see the deer and the leaves. I have a mentor who, you know, she'll make me stop and look at flowers and she'll sing the hallelujah chorus, you know. And we feel so close after those walks because we've marveled together and it's a whole different way of communicating than what we're used to in the culture now. And I love friends that are wanting to know, how do you want to grow this year? What projects are you working on? And then they express concern. It's called investment by them saying, how can we help you achieve your goals?

What do you need? That's wonderful friendship. That's wonderful connection. The research study that came to my email on diseases of despair in the state of Pennsylvania, so alcohol, suicide, they call it diseases of despair. They're linking that one of four key factors. One was just lack of social connection. So having someone that knows what you're working on, what you're thinking about, that's going to help them in whatever they're struggling with. So I'm imagining parents that have their teens in their bedrooms on their devices for hours and hours at a time, but their kids are struggling with depression. Oh, yeah, the depression and anxiety.

It's never been higher, in my opinion, at the college campus. And so how would you encourage those parents, knowing what you just said, how could they pull them out of that situation? And you have girls that are 19 and 17?

Yes. So we do like our phones. I'm not a parent that makes them not have their phone because I also enjoy TikTok and social media. But one thing I tell my girls is just the research behind dopamine addictions with your phone. Like you have to detox from that because you're just getting a dopamine hit every time, and your brain is really addicted to your phone.

We all know this. So having times when you detox from it, so we walk every day together, and we don't have our- You walk with your girls? I walk with my girl every day. Every day. We call it taking loops. We try to do three miles a day in the afternoon or evening.

So I love walking because you can do the awe walk with Marvel. You can practice the conversation questions and just tell them it is a dopamine detox that we are doing for your brain, so you're going to do better with your homework and sleeping. And just show them there are YouTube videos and research reports on how to kind of detox from your phone. The other thing you can do is actually use the phone for good conversation.

You could say, what was the funniest thing that you saw today on social media? So it's engaged in what they're looking at on the phone or doing on the phone. We do that a lot with the older girls. Of course, I was much more parental and controlling when they were younger, but now that they're ones out of the house- They're adults.

Yeah. We just laugh about it and talk about what makes something funny. What were you thinking about when you saw that video?

How did you decide to do this or whatever? You can go down the list of the six conversations to do that, and what's going to happen is they're going to enjoy the conversation so much that it in itself will be a pleasurable experience, which is a dopamine reward. So they may find that they love the warm connection and will come out of their room a little more, come down to talk. So it's fun. Listen to you, Heather.

What just hit me, right or wrong, this is where my brain went. We are so busy, running so fast. We meaning sort of most of us in the culture. You taking walks with your daughters means a conversation doesn't happen unless there's time to slow down and focus, whether it's on a walk or sitting at a dinner table. I mean, most families don't even have dinner together anymore.

They're just running from one sports event to one school event. You have to decide we got to pace our life in a way that we have time to have a conversation. Well, even if it's 15 minutes, the benefits of a daily walk are indisputable and outstanding for your health. What do you do in the winter? We walk in the winter.

I got yak tracks for the ice. We walk in the winter. I do it for my own health and weight management, but my daughter does it for stress because it regulates cortisol, insulin. When you go on a walk, I mean, I think the research shows you it has to be about 20 minutes to get the effect, but you're really helping your body, and even if nobody's talking right away, your child will open up. If you are walking, just try it out. Go on a walk, and eventually someone's going to say something, and it's fun.

I never pressure it, but sometimes I'll say, what have you been thinking about, or with kids that are really stressed out, I'll say, is there a thought going through your mind that you just can't get rid of? They love that question because so many kids are just spinning in anxiety, and they want someone to listen, and I love it. We love our walks. We've been doing it since COVID, since 2012.

Actually, 2019, early 2019, we started doing our daily loop. I remember one of my favorite things when the boys were teenagers. Again, they're married now with grandkids, but would be walking in their room high school years and saying, hey, tell me what you're listening to. Yeah, yeah, music.

And then many parents would say, okay, and then I'm going to tell them they shouldn't be listening to that. Mine was, let's look at the lyrics. I grabbed my guitar, let's learn this song.

That's so cool. What are they trying to say in this lyric? And you would say, tell me why you love this so much.

That's a great question. Some of the music I hated, but it didn't matter. It's like, this isn't about me. Why do you like that?

What's in there? That was a sweet moment. I heard a story of a youth pastor that came to faith because his grandma would walk into the room and get on the floor with him and listen to his Metallica albums with him. This sweet Christian grandma would listen to all the heavy metal and say that, why do you love it?

And he felt so loved and accepted by her. I love that. I remember asking our boys, tell me what you've been thinking about.

Yeah, that is so great. What have you been thinking about? But one of my sons, he's our oldest. He's very techy, he's very analytical. We asked this at the dinner table. What do you feel like you think about the most?

Which is an interesting question. And he said, I was like, what in the world? He said, I think almost all day long, I think about how things work.

Physical processes. That's amazing. That is so him. That's amazing. And that's why we call him every day. Help us.

We don't understand how this thing works. But isn't that fascinating? No, I can see that. I can tell what my daughters are probably thinking about all day long. Really?

Yeah, because one- Part of it's their gifts and their passion. Yeah. Oh, that's good. I wonder, do you know the answer to that? Of what? You know what? That question. I think that's such a good question, Anne. I'm like, what do I think?

You know what? I do think about theology all day long. I think about how God's going to work something for my good. Is that weird?

Is that self-focused? It shows me that you've been in the Word a lot. Well, I'm like, this bad thing is happening. For example, I have to fly home tonight and there's an ice storm. I'm already anticipating. I'm like, Lord, please, if I have to spend the night in Philadelphia, it is going to challenge my theology.

You know, I really think about what I believe about God. The logistics. It's because it's not going to be efficient. Yeah. That's what it is. It is. Because other people are like, Heather, just enjoy the free hotel stay.

Get the gift voucher. Go get yourself some Smashburger. I'm like, but it is wasting. You're absolutely right. It's wasting time.

Travel is not fun for me because it is not efficient. My favorite thing is when the pilot says, we're going to arrive 10 minutes before schedule. I'm like, yes. Okay. Dave, what do you think about?

What would you say? Oh, I don't want to talk about me. No, wait, wait.

Oh, come on. What do you think about? Is it strategy? You think about how things could be better? Yeah, I do. That's it. This is a great question.

I'm going to ask my students this. What do you think about that? In some ways, I hate that my mind critiques things like this broadcast. You'll be like, what could we have done better? Like that sermon, like that guitar solo, like the worship leader, like the sound, everything. I'm like, you know, analyzing. Like sometimes when I'm in worship as a participant, not playing in the band, I got to just block it out and go, enjoy this moment. Don't critique how the acoustic guy is saying, don't listen. Just worship God.

So maybe that's it. I don't know. Well, if someone said to you, Dave, what did you think of that worship set? How would you have done it better? Would that feel like a loving question to you?

Because then you could share. He would love that because he always knows the answer. I'm going to remember this like afterwards, I'm going to be like, Dave, what do you think of that interview?

What could we have done better? And you'll be like, oh, walk with me. And I actually like it when people come up to me and go, here's a thought on how this interview, this thing could have been better.

I don't, I'm not like defensive. Help me. If you saw something, that sermon, whatever, I got to preach this three times a day, make the next two better. People will laugh because like our church was doing three services and one thing. And so I would listen to the first one from home and I would send him a text like, hey, if you said it like this or you added this, and Dave loved that, he would come up on his iPad as he's speaking. Hey, I want to end with this because one of the things I drew out of your book when you said fresh goals, conversation, mutually encouraged, aid, personal growth, and to marvel. My first thought when you said to marvel was as we have conversations with people and we ask questions and we listen well, we're going to marvel at them, which is both because you get into marvel together, but there's a, there's a point where you're like, like when you were just talking about the way your brain works, I was like, wow, I went, so I thought, I thought when you have a great conversation with somebody and it's not about you, it's really about, I want to consider their interest more important than my own. At some point you go, like you look at your wife and you go, she's amazing. God made her so awesome.

I've forgotten that, but I saw it again because I asked and I listened. That could really enhance a marriage. And I feel like too, with our kids, I feel like that piece for me, there was a point when our kids were younger that I wanted to mold them into who I wanted them to be. I would have never said that, but really I had dreams and expectations of who they would become and when I stopped that and I started seeing and marveling of who God already created them to be and what he had put in them, it was like a worship, not of them, but of God, like, look what you've done. And I think we started believing and seeing and pointing out and marveling at these magnificent beings that God let us parent. Well, here's a concept that we learned early in our marriage, way back from a guy named Gary Smalley.

Love Gary Smalley. Now his son, Greg, is doing marriage stuff, but Gary taught on honor and the Hebrew word honor your mother and father, the word literally means to bend the knee. And his point was, when do you bend knees? In some cultures, you bend the knee when you're in the presence of somebody extremely valuable. He goes, that's what honor is. When you're with your wife, when you're with your kids, when you're with a total stranger, when you honor them, you're saying I'm in the presence of someone extremely valuable. We call a judge the honorable judge because they have a position. You don't have to like somebody or even love them. You honor who they are and trade in the image of God.

The image bearer. So that's what a conversation could say to somebody, I'm in the presence of somebody extremely valuable. If they felt that every time they're around us, whew. I know. Heather, you have been such a treat and joy. This has been so fun.

So fun. Thank you for being with us. Well, you're welcome.

Thank you for having me. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with my longtime friend, Heather Holliman on Family Life Today. Heather's written a book called The Six Conversations, Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility.

It's a fantastic book and you can pick up a copy at And Heather, you're such an enthusiastic supporter of this ministry. And I can say because I've known you for so long that you don't use words that you don't actually mean. You're an authentic person when it comes to your feelings about this ministry. And I believe you love what family life is doing day in and day out. I've loved my time connecting with family life. And if you're listening today, I just wanted to encourage you to continue to support the great ministry of family life.

They offer a safe space to talk about things that really matter, our marriages, how we're connecting with our children. This is a wonderful ministry for you to support or maybe continue supporting more. Thank you so much.

Yeah. And thanks to some generous ministry partners, our matching gift fund is even bigger now. So every gift given through the end of this year, including your gift right now, will be matched dollar for dollar until we hit $2.3 million. And when you give, we're going to send you, as our thanks, four copies of The Four Emotions of Christmas by Bob Lapine. That's one copy to keep for yourself and three to give away to family members or neighbors or friends. We're also going to send you six greeting cards that have been hand selected by David and Meg Robbins. These make a great tool to share with your loved ones or the special people in your life, whoever they may be. Again, you can give today at 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. We're coming close to the end of the year and have had so many amazing conversations with people like Dane Ortlund, John Yates, and many more who have been guests on Family Life Today. Well, next week, David Ann Wilson will sit with the president of Family Life, David Robbins, along with his wife, Meg, where they will showcase highlights over the last year and talk about what God has done through this ministry. Make sure you join us. On behalf of David Ann 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.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-17 23:12:32 / 2022-12-17 23:26:21 / 14

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