Campus Blog

The Physics of Social Norms

Aaron Emerson January 12, 2015

How to Create a Positive Imbalance (and move conversations beyond the status quo)

Newton’s first law of motion basically states that objects resist change. Apart from an outside influence, an object in motion stays in motion and when at rest stays at rest. What a metaphor of human behavior; we have a tendency to just “keep doing what we’re doing.” We too resist change.

As we think about our day to day conversations with people around us, we typically have a “mode” of relating to certain people and this mode is often different from person to person. Consider how dynamics differ between the following relationships: friend, mom, coworker, professor, and pastor. We often relate in a certain way, talk about a particular range of topics, and experience a unique social dynamic in each of our relationships.

We naturally have a specific pattern of relating to certain people in our lives, and breaking away from that usual pattern can often feel awkward–especially as it relates to engaging on yet-to-be-discussed deeper topics like God.

But, given the tremendous significance of helping others know and experience true life in Christ, how can we appropriately move our conversations beyond the status quo and toward understanding someone’s spiritual journey?

There’s no one way to answer this question. But before we keep going, let’s do a quick self evaluation:

  1. How do you currently move conversations from the status quo to understanding someone’s spiritual journey?
  2. If you’re a leader, how do you coach others on how to engage spiritually with friends?

If you don’t have a concise answer to these questions, you’re not alone. It’s for this reason that Cru has developed a simple, doable, and socially appropriate guide called SomeTime .

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 11.12.09 AM

SomeTime is built around one simple question. And it provides a few why’s and how’s of asking that question. In the most basic way, the guide is about asking friends, “Sometime, I’d like to hear about your spiritual journey…Would you be up for that?” (And during that conversation, or in a next one, ask if you can meet to hear his or her story.)

It’s that simple.

Quality conversations typically involve a relationally safe environment, sincere questions, attentive listening, and unhurried time. And when discussing deeper subjects, it’s helpful to give the other person a heads up. So asking a “Sometime…” question is an appropriate and inviting way to initiate a spiritual conversation with a friend.

Nationally, Cru students who participated in the SomeTime field test revealed this outcome: 80% of those who asked a “Sometime…” question had one or more meetings with friends to have spiritual conversations. Wow.

Though this result was surprising to me, it was no statistical outlier. Other facts and figures reported by actual researchers (like Barna) suggest this kind of openness. The reality is that people want to talk about God. We just need to ask.

Asking a “Sometime…” question can break the static conditions of our social norms and create the positive imbalance necessary to engage with a friend on his or her spiritual journey.

Interested? Here's what to do next.

Read the short guide: SomeTime – A Guide to Joining Others on Their Journey

Use the SomeTime outreach on your campus.

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