Related to the creation of koinonia (see “A Model) is the nature of the communication that takes place between members of a sharing group. If such communication is to deepen relationships, it must be ‘authentic’. I once asked a church congregation to discuss the notion of authentic conversations. Specifically, I asked: Can you remember when you were part of an authentic conversation? What was unusual about it?
One person in each discussion group was asked to write down the key ideas that emerged in the conversation, so that they could be published in the church newsletter, thus stimulating others to think about the question. Not every group responded in writing, but here are the thoughts of some:
- An authentic conversation is real, caring and touching.
- It happens when you have no time constraints.
- It is possible with people you trust, in a comfortable setting.
- It involves mutual sharing of experiences and feelings.
- Different view points are aired in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance, respect and willingness to be challenged.
- People take the time to actively listen to one another.
- There is no preset agenda.
- Risk is involved, but ego is not; i.e. people do not try to impress or judge, or convince others of their point of view.
- An open mind is essential.
- It involves matters of the heart where the listener and the speaker’s roles intertwine.
- It is recognizable when you experience true validation.
- It requires remembering that each person has a unique life experience and may not be talking about the same thing, even if the topic remains the same.
- Full attention is required.
- It may mean calling someone’s bluff and calling a spade a spade.
- If you spend your whole life trying to avoid embarrassment, you miss the opportunities for authentic exchange.
- Knowing one’s flaws can bring freedom.
- Fear keeps authenticity at bay, as do good manners and being nice.
My questions were posed in order to evoke the value of the idea of a ‘conversation café’ as a means of promoting authentic conversation within the church and the also within the community. Read more about this idea in the article on the subject by clicking here.