There have been multiple times at the Feast of Tabernacles or other places where I thought to myself, “I wish I talked to that person.” I have noticed that I have built walls or barriers around myself and have a hard time getting to know people sometimes.
One time someone brought it to my attention that these walls were hindering me and my relationships. While standing around at the family dance at the Winter Family Weekend a person I know came up to me to talk to me. I think he genuinely wanted to get to know me a little better, but my body language was tense and for some reason I was ready to bolt from the conversation. I did not feel threatened by this person. To this day I am not sure why I felt this way in that moment. Well, he noticed that I was struggling with the conversation and pointed it out to me. I’ve never had anyone point out this fact before in a middle of a conversation. I also noticed that my body was literally facing away from him, and I was giving short answers to his questions. When I noticed this I physically moved my feet so they pointed towards him, made myself more engaged in the conversation and made sure to ask him questions too. At the end of our conversation before we parted ways, he praised my conversational ability.
After this I realized something had to change within me that I needed to put myself out there more and break down these 10-foot walls I had built around myself. He was not the only person I had these “ready to run with short answers” type of conversations with. I never doubted my ability to have a good conversation. In fact I am fully capable of conversing with those I feel comfortable with and consider my friends. The difference here was that for some reason I didn’t feel comfortable around him. The reality was that I just didn’t know him and needed to get to know him.
When we go to the Feast of Tabernacles we must focus on getting to know people. These people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must break down these barriers that hinder us from being unified with the family of God. Now I am not saying we must share our life story or become instant best friends with every single person we meet. There are personality clashes. But you also might be surprised that the one person you never thought you could be friends with might actually become your best friend some day. We must let our guard down just a little if we are ever going to connect and cultivate that sense of community.
Here are some points to help you to connect to others at the Feast:
Go Up to Someone New
This is easy for some, and if it is easy for you then maybe you can make it a point to meet several new people at the Feast. If you struggle with social anxieties then maybe you can set a goal of a smaller number of people. If you are too shy or overwhelmed to even go up to one new person, it might help to find someone you already know and then find a new person to talk to with your friend. If you are in a group of people and someone else is not contributing much to the conversation, bring them into it. Ask them questions. Let them share their thoughts on the topic. This is an easy way to get to know people.
Be open and let your guard down some. Consider how open you are to new people. Do not share every detail of your life, but if you do not share some things then you cannot really get to know someone.
Check Your Body Language
Make sure you are facing the person you are talking to. Point your feet towards them and do not keep your arms crossed the entire conversation. Also consider how fidgety you are. And make sure you smile!
Really listen in a conversation. Do not just hear what the person is saying, but be engaged. Ask questions and focus on what they are saying. Try to find things you have in common, but do not disregard what you don’t have in common. You could learn something new by listening to their knowledge.
Embrace the Awkward Silence
When there is a lull in the conversation, do not immediately run away or pull out your cell phone to check the weather. Use this time to think of another question to ask. It’s OK to stand in silence for a few seconds.
Do Not Be Locked Into Plans
Making plans with friends or to see some exciting tourist spot are not bad things. But when you have plans at specific places with specific people every day of the Feast you leave little room to allow new friends to come along with you or for you to be invited out with them.
Consider Your Internal Attitude
Before even going to the Feast make sure you are excited for the Feast and new people. Maybe you didn’t want to go to that Feast site, or maybe something big happened in your life to make you feel bummed before the Feast. You need to push these aggravated feelings aside briefly and focus on God’s soon coming Kingdom. When we do focus on the fact that we already are a family with the same goal, then it really doesn’t matter what happened before the Feast or that we are not in place we wanted to be. We can still connect to the people in that place regardless.
When you are enjoying yourself and focusing on God’s soon coming Kingdom, it is easy to meet new people, and even go up to them. When you do smile at a new friend and say hi to them it is easy to get over the harsh feelings. So make the most of this Feast and break down those barriers!