Can We Talk?

Can we talk? Depending on your age and social location when you read this question you may think of the popular Tevin Campbell song of the early 1990’s of the same name and the infectious chorus:

Can we talk for a minute?
Girl, I want to know your name
Can we talk for a minute?
Girl, I want to know your name

Or maybe you think of the late comedienne Joan Rivers who popularized the question as part of her stand-up comedy routine where she used brutal honesty and razor-sharp wit to satirize truths of everyday life. Maybe you just feel the anxiety inducing dread that accompanies these words when uttered by a spouse, boss or parent, given that this simple three-word phrase often serves as a precursor to a conversation indicating that something is wrong and more importantly, it’s your fault.

One study in Britain revealed that the average person has 27 conversations every day, lasting an average of 10 minutes each[1]. That’s a lot of talking and yet we seem to be experiencing a moment in time where communication and simply talking to one another is at an all-time low. Often it seems like we do more talking at each other than talking to each other. With such a prolific amount of talking going on, you would think we’d all be much better at it. Even those of us who speak professionally and make a decent living doing it aren’t always the best when it comes to one-on-one conversations.

In the book, “The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking The Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations” Robert Livingston writes,

conversation is one of the most powerful ways to build knowledge, awareness, and empathy, and ultimately effect change. Conversation is also a primal way for people to form bonds, build trust, and create community…Studies show that being given an opportunity to have a conversation, in addition to being exposed to new information, can make all the difference in changing people’s behavior.[2]

Could it be that something we do every single day, all day long could really hold the power to help meet the overwhelming challenges of our time?  The more I try to make sense of it all and encounter those struggling to make meaning, while navigating these wild and crazy days, the idea of building knowledge, awareness, empathy and effecting change seems to ring true. Likewise forming bonds, building trust, and creating community feels authentic and familiar.

Whether talking with a man possessed by demons, a woman allegedly caught in adultery, a tree-climbing politician or his mother at a wedding, Jesus exemplified the power of conversation.  After all each person Jesus encountered was given an opportunity to have a conversation with Him, was exposed to new information and left the exchange changed and transformed. As Jesus’ followers we too have the power to engage in conversations that yield life altering change if we are willing to stop talking at one another and slow down long enough to talk to one another.

Perhaps what the world needs now is safe space to speak truths silenced for far too long and to hear perspectives too often forgotten. As we wring our hands trying to figure out how to faithfully steward buildings, traditions, and fraught legacies perhaps we should pray for new conversation partners and the courage to boldly ask, “Can we talk?”

[1] Marcel Schwantes, “The 1 Question the Most Interesting People Will Ask to Start Great Conversations”, Inc., 2/8/2020:

[2] Robert Livingston, The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations (New York: Currency, 2021), xiii

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