How to Be In Conversation
If you’re interested in showing the world that Islam is not the travesty seen on TV, you’ll need to engage individuals on a one-to-one basis so they can get to know a Muslim. People have very different reactions toward “others” when they know and interact with an “other” in person than when they only know about “them” from TV. Even people who complain out loud about minority populations will make an exception to the stereotype in their head if they get to know someone individually.
How to “be in conversation” as in “how to get yourself into conversation”
In order to be available for people to get to know you, you’ll have to be an extrovert naturally or force yourself to be into conversation and people if you are an introvert naturally. Engage in conversation anyplace and everyplace where you see an opportunity—but not necessarily to talk about Islam. People need to see a Muslim being an everyday person experiencing the same problems and delights as everyone else.
Whatever is normal for small talk in your neck of the woods–partake of that. In Minnesota, we talk about how the crops are doing in the summer and how cold it is in the winter. If you’re on a bus, bring up something about the bus route. If you’re in a parent education class, say something about not being a perfect parent. Mention gas prices, local news, local weather, etc. Pay attention to how talkative people get into conversation with perfect strangers and use their techniques!
How to “be” in conversation as in “how to comport yourself when in conversation”
Components of a good attitude
- Don’t dismiss anyone as not worthy of getting into conversation with.
- If you’re feeling shy, remember that you have as much right as they do to be human and to be in conversation–don’t allow yourself to feel unworthy of contributing something.
- Focus on the current conversation, not on some other aspect of life.
- Be ready to meet harsh or ignorant comments with humor.
- Be genuinely curious about and interested in the other person.
- Don’t get down if someone seems uninterested in conversation.
Listen first (before talking about yourself). Be observant of things you can use in conversation.
Smile. Ask open-ended questions, not yes-no questions. Remember their name.
If you felt rapport with someone and feel like giving them a way to contact you again, write on a slip of paper instead of handing them a business card.
In the next post, we’ll tell you how to get Islam into the conversation!