Today I read about some research on conversation (that’s my kind of research!). This particular research concluded that too much small talk can lead to loneliness and unhappiness whereas meaningful relationships and conversations contributed to greater happiness. I would guess that most women would say, “I could have told you that!” My husband has learned that it’s not just conversation that I need–it’s “deep conversation” that keeps me feeling connected and happy. While this may all seem like common sense to some of us, I would venture to say that it isn’t that clear to all of us and at the least, it’s sometimes difficult to have these conversations on a regular basis. Especially if a good part of our time is spent with young children in our home.
Some of us just don’t get out of the house enough or we don’t have opportunities to catch up with friends on the phone. In my case, I get out of the house quite regularly, but often it’s shuttling kids around (where I just pass by friends and acquaintances with a short greeting) or I’m together with others in a large group. On any given day, I might have a variety of conversations with a varying number of people. But they are far from meaningful conversations. They deal with things like schedules, the weather, basic information about my plans, my family, etc. Certainly topics that qualify for “small talk.” I realize that small talk is a part of life, but I cringe at friendships that never break the surface of small talk and I get bored with situations with friends where small talk reigns.
What Conversation Means to a Mom
As a new mom, I craved things like “Mom Night Out” with the girlfriends. I faithfully went to a play group where as many as 15 moms were present in its “heyday.” It was enough for me to just connect with people on any level. Then something began to change. Maybe it was me just evolving and settling in to my role as a mom. Or maybe it had to do with spiritual growth. Maybe it happened once I had a second child and my time felt more stretched. Whatever the reason, I started feeling almost hostile about the shallow conversations that were going on in these situations. I would come home feeling annoyed rather than refreshed. After a playgroup with three other moms where the conversation revolved around things they wanted to buy (a conversation that went on and on for two hours+), I swore off these get-togethers. The scripture that kept revolving around in my head was 2 Timothy 2:16. Although this verse is talking about false teachings, I believe that it is generally Godly advice in any situation: “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”
Looking back, I realize that small talk isn’t necessarily “godless” (I was probably over-reacting, okay?!), but I was craving friendships and conversations that were real and nothing is more real to me than the Lord and my walk with Him. It seemed nauseating to spend so much time talking about things that have nothing to do with that–particularly with friends who claim faith, too.
Pursuing Godliness, Even In Conversations
As with anything, we need to pursue what is good and uplifting and handle things that are otherwise in a Godly manner. Sometimes small talk is fun and serves a purpose. Obviously it serves a great purpose when getting to know someone or in a gathering where the focus is on someone or something (like a birthday party or a fundraiser). But too much of it leaves a big hole in that part of our souls that desires meaning and purpose.
Yesterday I briefly stopped by the library with my two girls to pick up some books. We were all feeling under the weather with colds and I figured some new books would help see us through. I ran into a friend from my church. Although I don’t know this woman very well, I appreciate the way she and I can immediately get to the heart of what we are going through and what God is teaching us. We definitely talked for less than 10 minutes, but in that short time, we shared some struggles and frustrations we were having in ministry and then finished up our conversation by sharing hope and encouragement that God had been giving each of us. I was truly uplifted and refreshed by such a brief conversation.
The blog post I read summarizes by saying, “The bottom line is that maintaining friendships can help with emotional well-being. Friends buffer negative events and provide support. Don’t be too busy to have a meaningful conversation.” As a mother of young children, I would also encourage other women in my stage of life to pick and choose what to invest your time in. Make sure that time spent with your husband and meaningful conversations with him are high on your priority list. When it comes to friendships, choose to invest in ones that are meaningful.
As for get-togethers, playdates, women’s retreats, or Moms Nights Out, be selective in how you spend your time away from your family. Make sure that you’re coming away refreshed and rejuvenated. I find that the size of a group really effects the type of conversations that are had–a group of more than 4 but less than 10 often leads to group conversation, which rarely gets below the surface (my four kindred friends from high school are an exception here–there are always exceptions!!!). A smaller group usually allows for more personal topics; I’ve also discovered that a large enough group (like 10 or more) means that I can seek out more intimate one-on-one conversations. My time with my family is my priority, but I also need time away and I want it to be well spent.
Be happy–talk well. “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil…..do not be foolish.” Ephesians 5:15-17
There is nothing like tea with good friends……