Have you ever been in a “conversation” where the other person just talks past you? You know what I’m talking about – they say something, then wait for you to say something and while you are speaking, they are thinking of what they will say next. They are concerned with either making a point, or shooting down your idea or argument, or having the last word.
This happens more often than we like to admit. I’m not sure why though.
I wonder if social media has anything to do with this, or if it just a symptom of it. I don’t know. Maybe it has nothing to do with it.
When it comes to politics and religion, this happens a great deal. We talk past each other on important and unimportant issues. We talk past each other on immigration and health care and a whole host of topics. Why though? Are our beliefs about these things so shallow and weak that we can’t handle some questions and criticisms? Do we believe that we must have all the answers and that our beliefs must be air tight? Do we believe that if our opponent finds a weakness somewhere in our argument that the whole thing will fall apart like a house of cards?
This happens in religion and theology too. We talk past each other when it comes to abortion, the existence of God, and high church vs. low church. Why? What do we have to gain by talking past the other person?
Talking past someone is a completely defensive posture. In a sense, there is a belief that we have nothing to gain from the other person – nothing to learn. We are afraid of losing something. Here’s the real deal though – if this is your posture, you’ve already lost. It’s just a matter of time until it all comes tumbling down. You can’t survive by contracting and becoming smaller. You thrive by expanding and growing. Not necessarily in terms of literal numbers, but rather in terms of growing relationships, knowledge, wisdom, experience, being open and vulnerable.
So, what do you do if someone is talking past you? Change things up. Stop and ask questions. Be honest about what is going on and confront the other person too. Is there a willingness to change the conversation so it is really a conversation? If not, you’re wasting your time. If they are and you are, then you’ve just entered something great.