RECLAIMING THE LOST ART OF CONVERSATION
...in the nick of time
We all know people (they're multiplying like rabbits; you or I might even be one of them...) who treat a conversation like a competition. It's like, who's going to win the conversation game?? They pontificate on a subject - it could be anything from politics (it frequently is, these days), to pruning (it's that time of year), to the point of exhaustion. They have all the answers - and the questions - leaving the "other" person to play the part of a terribly grateful, impressed, nodding, mute. Or even worse they market themselves, or pitch the idea or point of view they want you to "buy" so that when the "conversation" is over, they can declare themselves the "winner." (Hey, if at the next dinner party you attend, you notice the person you've been talking to sneak over and change his place card when he realizes it was next to yours...you might want to watch it.)
Have you noticed lately how few true conversations actually take place? Oh, we talk to each other all right, (unless, of course, we're texting...), but that's not necessarily "conversing." To converse means to actually exchange thoughts, ideas, impressions, opinions, passions and stories with another person and be willing to have a change of opinion or change of heart as a result. It means you have to listen as much as you talk - maybe more - or there's no real exchange...
Look, it's tempting to pontificate, especially when you're the "subject expert." It's seductive to market yourself when you've just created a new business. It's hard not to "pitch" your point of view or your "product" when you're convinced it's exactly what the other person ought to want. But social situations aren't the time for that and, just for the record, even in business situations when it is time for that, a successful "pitch" requires more active listening than active talking.
So what do we do to prevent ourselves from becoming the "pariah" everyone dreads sitting next to and instead, become the one whom people seek out - not because we're so smart, but because they feel better about themselves when they're around us?
It's surprisingly easy. Ask them what they're passionate about, what they care about, what they get a kick out of, what delights them - or even what they're worried about. Listen. Listen hard. Listen to learn something new, to be surprised, even blown away by their interests or insights. Maybe, depending on how the conversation goes, you might ask them that all-important question, "If absolutely anything were possible, what would you love to make happen? In you life? In your work?" And then share your answers to the same questions. You might be shocked to discover how much you have in common... even if you've known each other for years...
The bottom line is, stop talking and telling. Let go of how much you know and fall in love with how much you can learn. Approach everyone you meet - little people, big people (you can learn a lot from a conversation with a little person...) as a chance to actually connect - a chance to walk away from a true interchange of thoughts differently from the way you arrived - and a chance to have enabled someone else to do the same.
Imagine how rich your life will become...
"It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much." Yogi Berra
Gail Blanke's Lifedesigns ©2014 All Rights Reserved
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