by Samuel Chiang
“I don’t have a credit history!”
The man looked at me with disbelief.
“You mean your credit history is not very good.”
“No, I do not have a credit history in your country of the USA.”
“Well, are you employed?”
“Can you produce an employment letter?”
“Yes, I can produce an employment letter.”
“Can we call your employer?”
“Yes, I would be very happy for you to do that.”
Then, the gentleman at the car dealership wanted to know what I did. We got into a good conversation which ended with me doing most of the listening.
This is the fourth timeI am functioning as an immigrant in a new country. I have discovered that people don’t really want to know that you are an immigrant, as most people do not have a category for that. Thus, it is best that I listen. I have continually done so during my last six weeks as I have moved to the USA. By listening, there are ways to launch conversations into the frantically busy lives of different people, including strangers.
In this process, I have discovered some common generalities:
- People are lonely. Despite the amount of social media platforms and potential interactions, people are lonely, and desire to have conversations with real people. This happens in restaurants, in governmental offices, and even in shopping malls. People desire real interactions.
- People love to talk about themselves. From personal history to tattoos, people love to provide a story about themselves. I witnessed this recently on a 90-minute plane ride, where two people who had never met started to talk about the tattoos on their arms. It is unbelievable the amount of information they were willing to share. They talked for the entire 90 minutes, and the flight attendant had to suggest for them to tone down their conversations, but then, she joined in!
- People are interested in spiritual matters, depending on how you launch the conversations. Many people tell me that in America you cannot talk about God openly, and that people are not interested in spiritual conversations. I do not doubt the sincerity of those cautions, but I have discovered that how one launches the conversation is critical to how the other person will receive the message.
I am certain most of us wish to have conversations with others, including strangers. Here are some questions to prepare for your next conversational encounter.
- Are you willing to talk about family matters?
- Are you willing to talk about your struggles with going to church?
- But most importantly, are you willing to listen?
Samuel Chiang is president/CEO of The Seed Company. Formerly, he was executive director of the International Orality Network. Born in Taiwan, he grew up and worked in Canada and formerly served as COO of TWR. He has authored book chapters in diverse genres including innovation, orality, and persecution.