The Tragedy of Half Conversations

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How many times have you had a conversation that unintentionally went sideways? The chances are that when one of those happens, you feel sorry that your real heart didn’t come across.

You know you’ve had one of those when ideas come to you like, “If I’d only said ___, then I would have expressed myself far better, and end of it would have turned out better.”

Communication is never an exact science. There is no way that we can translate from our hearts, through our words, through the air to their ears, to their hearts, and expect your original message will be the same. If there is a sense of conflict involved in it, it’s unlikely your first attitude will come even close to what the other person takes to heart.

For me, some of those conversations have been so damaging to both them and me, for years afterward. Eventually, the memory, of what was said then heard, becomes like a skip in the record. We may not even know what was meant by the other person.

Who is Number Nine?

On the Beatles White Album, one cut is a man saying, “Number nine. Number nine. Number nine” dozens of times until it fades away. I’ve heard that album dozens of times beginning when I was still in high school. After decades I still don’t know what they meant with that cut. “What the heck is number nine anyway? Who is number nine?” One thing is for sure – those words repeated over and over. Half conversations are like that – both a mystery, confusion, and sadly something that it’s hard to forget.

When we have enough conversations like that, chances are good you will find it distracting to the point of distraction toward that person. To your surprise, what started out as a short conversation got out of control then ended up with an even more difficult situation than when you began. So what is a person to do to get past that happening?


When a conversation is heading that direction, it may be best to stop and agree to meet again at a better time to share thoughts. On the spot schedule that conversation. Tell that person, “This discussion seems to be going into the ditch, for me anyway. Let’s connect at this time and continue it, for my sake if nothing.”

Putting A Lid On It

If we don’t put a lid on a conversation like that, the further the conversation goes, the greater the misunderstanding will be. In the meantime gather your clarified thoughts as succinctly as possible. Before you reconnect, ask God to wisdom to both of you. Ask God to give you the right words – ones that will clear, loving, and wise.

It may feel great to pummel the other person; perhaps they deserve it with the quick wit.

The only way for both parties to win is to put a lid on it and agree to a later conversation. In the meantime, both of you can cool down and hopefully “Speak the truth in love” as Paul puts it.

Steve has spoken, mentored and modeled to churches and leaders around the world with the simple message that anyone – regardless of their gifting or experience – can be involved in bringing God’s loving kindness to others. His first book, Conspiracy of Kindness has been translated into several languages with more in the works. His first book has sold over 300,000 copies. Altogether his books have sold over 500,000 copies.