I wanted to write a wonderful theoretical post about conversation and community.

The train of thinking started with a post by Joanna Young, talking about responding to comments on blogs. It’s a great post, suggesting that if we are going to write, we have to listen to the comments and respond to them because we are the social in social media, because these are conversations that, when continued, grow into relationship.

I commented that I like to email rather than respond on my blog to the comments. Joanna suggested that the former is nice and helpful and friendly, but if we don’t do the latter, we don’t help people to understand that this is a friendly place to be, that the writer of this blog is a listener, a dialoguer, a conversationalist.

It was a very good caution, a very well written, caring reproof.

I am, by nature, a one-on-one person. My counsel is private most often. I don’t like to talk to one person in front of others. In fact, when Nancy and I go out to eat, we are the quiet table. We talk, quietly, but if there are other tables close to ours, our conversation is limited. This is in marked contrast to the tables around us who seem more than ready to share every detail of their lives.

As a result, when I come to social media, I am far more comfortable with the email interaction than with responding to comments. I can speak more directly to heart needs that I sense. I can relate at a different level.

And, as I said, I was going to have this much more closely reasoned.

And then I spent the evening in conversations, with a long-time friend, with family, in the emergency room with someone injured in an accident (not seriously). And I realized that I am built to encourage best in one-on-one conversations. If there are four of us in the room, I’ll defer to those who seem to know better what they are doing. If there are two of us, I’ll defer to the one who seems to know better what they are doing.

We each work best when we work in ways that fit with us best. And at times that will cost us reach, and breadth, and audience. However, when I am most likely to change a life, it happens with personal time where I don’t have to worry about others listening in. I can better ask obnoxious questions. I can more comfortably share my particular struggles.

So yes, Joanna, I will do my best to respond publicly to comments. And I love what you and Liz do with specific direct comments to everyone who comments on your blogs. But I’m thinking that I have to know how my voice best works, and put my energy into that way of speaking.

Or that’s what I think way too late at night.


9 responses to “Conversation

  1. If the blog is merely a catalyst, an igniter for private conversation, your more effective ministry comes in the hours long conversation that result from that ignition. I’ve seen that …

    That level of discussion and interaction simply can’t be posted in a few quotes or lines of text on the internet. The blog is helpful and an excellent starting point, but I think Jesus would’ve been a bit more than a blogger. He would’ve been willing to go get a cup of coffee and talk about what was posted …

  2. by the above, i don’t mean to say that the medium of a blog is inappropriate or insufficient or that Jesus wouldn’t even have one šŸ˜‰

    i only mean that He would also take it to the next level as you’ve done …

  3. Hi Jon

    I knew you’d come up with something thoughtful in response to this conversation.

    I didn’t mean to sound reproving…sorry if it sounded like that.

    Just reflecting that the way we deal with comments publicly will affect the way that others see us, and their likelihood of joining in a conversation. Thinking about your examples – if I could see you in person, if I watched you moving around your ‘real’ community I’d notice that you were good at listening, and offering quiet space to talk, and noticing when someone needed counsel.

    But I don’t have that privilege from afar – so I look for other signals that a conversation will follow.

    Of course I’m in the lucky position of knowing that conversation will follow because it already has – my point was mainly that there are others who are reading, and wondering, and that we need to think about the signals we send…

    But only insofar as it fits with our values and purpose – and you know I’d never want you to change your voice šŸ™‚


  4. And the problem of writing late at night (early in the morning) is that words aren’t exactly right, or more accurately, emotions don’t flow throuugh them in the way we would like.

    You didn’t *sound* reproving at all, but my heart needed the challenge. So it wasn’t you at all.

    But your point about the need for the cues, the tipoff to the listening, that is huge, absolutely huge. The difference between shy and standoffish, or the appearance of each, isn’t very big. Even us shy people, or particularly us, need to work thoughtfully at inviting conversation so we can listen.

  5. and Tom, I am pretty sure that Jesus blogs as least as much as He walks. But you are exactly right…he is about conversation as much as conversion…or maybe each as a means to the other.

  6. Excellent conversation here. My thought would be to post a short comment on the blog and mention within the comment you’d like to continue the conversation offline.

    There is a bit of an intimidation factor when you post to the world vs. just striking up an email conversation. Likewise, you may be trying to “save face” with someone offline vs online.

    Joanna and I did a similar thing on one of her posts a while back. I noticed an incorrect link in a post and emailed her about it vs posting a comment. Joanna would have been comfortable either way I surmise, but there can be +/- to either.

  7. Erik, I like mentioning in the comment the email conversation. That is a great way to reflect both.

    Though there may be the save face *from* I often am trying to save face *for* someone, mentioning things that I could not in the public space.

  8. Hello, Jon, Joanna has given you some great advice, folks do think a site is friendly and warm if they see you comment to others. Sort of shows that you care and that you truly want to interact. While I can see your point that some conversations might work better in email, I have the sense that most of what you say could be said here so that others see it, too.

  9. Thanks, Robyn. Joanna has pushed my thinking significantly in this area. What I’m looking at is the both/and: interaction in the comments that is broadly valuable and email which is more specific.

    And, as I said to someone elsewhere today, if i am saying hte smae thing in several indivudal conversations, it’s time to make it more public. Saves time, yes, but it means that it is something with broad interest.