Meals have always been an important time at my house. After running around all day with school or work or chores or the zillion other things that have to happen on a daily basis, everyone finally has a chance to sit down, relax and enjoy being with each other. Sometimes conversation happens easily, but sometimes it seems like there’s nothing to talk about. After all, the people you live with tend to know what goes on in your life. There are a number of ways to stimulate conversation when it seems to be lacking.
Take turns talking about a favorite memory. The best part about this is that not only do you get to share a story that means something to you, but chances are someone else at the table will remember the same thing. You’ll all get to reminisce and laugh together, and you may be reminded of something you forgot or learn something you didn’t know.
Ask your parents stories about their childhood or yours. This was one of our favorite things to do. I think my parents got tired of the constant refrain of “Tell us a story!” Sometimes they couldn’t think of one off the top of their heads, but more often than not, they’d have a sweet or funny anecdote. Sometimes it was a story we’d heard before, but it was no less enjoyable than hearing it for the first time.
Start a conversation and see where it leads. In our culture, it’s so easy to rush off to the next thing and forget to enjoy where we’re at. I love the times that my family is gathered in the living room or around the dinner table, just talking and sharing our lives. Ironically, this often happens while we’re trying to decide what to do on a free evening and up getting sidetracked talking to each other.
Talk about ideas. We’ve had a number of deep discussions during meal times – history, science, theology, politics, you name it. These conversations usually stem from one of us asking a question or sharing something interesting we’ve learned. Inevitably, someone has important insight or knowledge to add, and at the very least it’s a good way to learn how to both communicate and listen.
Share something you appreciate about someone. We do this on birthdays; each of us takes a turn telling the birthday person something we’re thankful for about them, a strength we’ve observed in them, or a special memory we have with them. I’ve always appreciated this tradition because it makes me realize just how incredible each of my family members is and how much of an impact they’ve had on me.
Express interest in what everyone else is up to. Someone sport’s season just started? Ask them what their goals are. Someone’s taking a class? Ask them how they’re enjoying it. Someone’s taken up a new hobby? Ask them about it. This isn’t just a simple conversation starter; we’re around our family members so much and are so familiar with what they’re up to that we forget to ask. Sometimes it’s not about knowing; sometimes it’s about showing that we care by showing interest.
I know with crazy schedules it isn’t always easy to get everyone together for a meal, but if you have a chance, take full advantage of it. I know that I’m so thankful for each opportunity we have to enjoy each other’s company.