Mark Fairweather Tall
It's good to talk!
It was back in the 1990s when BT launched a new advertising campaign with the slogan: “It’s good to talk”. At the time their market share was very high and they were without a significant competitor but they wanted to change attitudes. They looked at statistics that suggested a high proportion of men were responsible for paying the phone bill but that women were the heaviest users and most likely to pick up the phone for a chat. So BT employed Bob Hoskins, often associated with playing rough-edged characters with a heart of gold, to deliver the words in a gravelly cockney accent: “It’s good to talk”. The campaign was very successful in increasing revenues and presumably therefore changing attitudes (especially in men) about the value of talking to each other!
I was recently sent a link to a story where talking is being encouraged. Over recent days, badges have been handed out on the London Underground displaying the words, “Tube Chat?” They are designed to show other commuters that you are someone who is happy to start a conversation with them. Badges have been handed out with the guidance: “Have a chat with your fellow passengers. Wear this badge to let others know you are interested. You’ll benefit from a daily chat. Start using it today.” The message is that ‘it’s good to talk’, but Jonathon Dunne, the man behind the badge, has found the reception has been far from great. In an interview with the BBC he said, “Twenty percent think it’s nice and about 80% of people think it’s terrible, the worst idea ever.” In fact, such was the reaction Jonathon wondered whether he would still have struggled to give them away if he was offering £5 with every badge!
I freely confess that I would not want to wear such a badge! When I travel I like to read or get on with some work. If I am walking on my short commute from home to church/meeting I would rather listen to something or simply be lost in my own thoughts. I have no desire to talk to others!
In many ways, I don’t think there is anything wrong with this and it is simply a sign of my natural introvert tendencies. However, there are times when I read the Scriptures and feel challenged. Again and again I see examples of people willing to be interrupted and talk before ministering to those whom they have just met: Jesus took the disciples away to a quiet place for some rest, but crowds followed and it led to the feeding of the 5000; As Jesus was passing through Jericho he saw a man who had climbed a tree. He stopped, engaged in conversation with him and it led to a life changing moment for Zacchaeus; Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch and engaged in a conversation with him that led to the request to be baptised. As Paul went on his missionary journeys he deliberately went to places where he could have a conversation with people to tell them about Jesus.
There have been times when I have felt prompted in prayer to simply walk around and seek the opportunity to share something of my faith or minister to someone as I journey. Unsurprisingly, when I do this I am often presented with that chance. I confess, though, too often my natural instinct not to talk is more prevalent. It is good to talk – I know it and I believe it. Sometimes, though, I need to remind myself to do it… perhaps I should make myself a badge!