Two Types of Conversations
3 May 2015
Today I want to talk about types of conversations. Specifically, I want to talk about the difference between external and internal conversations.
External conversations are conversations that you’re comfortable with anyone jumping in on. Shooting the breeze at the office. Talking with strangers at a party. External conversations typically don’t have a lot of emotional investment to them; they’re not likely to drain you (if that’s a thing for you, which is it for many).
Internal conversations are ones that are meant for a more intimate group. A group with shared experiences, or with shared beliefs, or with a high degree of trust among its members. That discussion about systemic racism that you as a PoC have with other PoC. That theological conversation you have with other Christians about Arminianism versus Calvinism.
So, you’re probably thinking, yeah, I have external conversations and internal conversations all the time. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that social media makes knowing the difference difficult. One way of looking at a social media conversation—one that I’ve used myself—is that of a person’s front porch. When I tweet or post a status to FB or G+, I’m standing on my front porch talking. This makes it difficult to tell sometimes if I’m desiring an external conversation or an internal one. I know I’ve made the mistake of wading into internal conversations before, and I’m sure I’ll continue to.
Knowing when it’s okay to jump into a conversation is a skill, though. One that can be cultivated. To take one of my examples above, if you identify as white, take a minute and think about whether the people you’re seeing discuss racism are having an internal discussion or not.
If they are? Maybe just listen to what they’re saying without chiming in. The same goes for issues of gender identity, sexual orientation, theology (of any religion or non-religion), dietary choices, etc. If it’s a topic that you know people have strong opposing opinions on, or that require a lot of background information to have a meaningful discussion about, think about whether to add your voice to the conversation or not.
It’ll be hard sometimes, but hey, you want to be a responsible internet citizen, right?