Remember a year ago, when we sat down with someone and had a face-to-face conversation?
Doesn’t that feel like decades ago?
I appreciate meaningful conversations, now more than ever since the pandemic has disrupted our everyday life connections. Technologies, such as video-calls are helping, but I still find it challenging to connect with those I care about.
Conversations are where I sort things out, laugh at life’s funny moments, and occasionally cry over a friend’s losses, and make some sense of the events unfolding in our world.
Getting beyond “How are you?”
Have you noticed how conversation usually starts with “how are you?” And the typical response is “fine.”
This is an example of a verbal tic—a benign phrase someone says with little thought. When we ask, “how are you?”, we’re politely acknowledging the person; when they answer “fine”, they’ve returned the verbal volley with a polite response. May be adequate with people in the grocery story or we pass along the street, but that’s about it.
Like many of us, I’m feeling disconnected and socially deprived. I miss my full days I normally spent with our grandchildren. I miss shared dinners and special celebrations with family and friends.
I especially miss sitting with friends over a glass of wine or coffee, offering us ample time for wonderful conversations to unfold naturally into what matters in our lives. That’s feels like a century ago!
Going Deeper than Superficial Veneer Conversations
I want the people I care about to know I care. I want to talk about what matters. What is important to each of us and why. I want to laugh together about what’s funny these days, and cry together as we deal with overwhelming challenges.
Don’t you want to go deeper than the superficial veneer conversations? I do. I believe our hearts, now more than ever, yearn for deeper, heartfelt conversations. About stuff that matters to each of us personally.
It’s about having meaningful, genuine conversations. In person, socially distanced if you’re so lucky, or on Zoom/Facetime, text, or phone.
Here what I’ve learned to help improve my conversations.
Be present to the conversation.
Whether in person or on the phone, sit and listen with full attention.
Sit down, pour yourself your favorite beverage and get comfortable…. like you would have in “normal times”.
Do not multi-task. I may occasionally pair conversations with walking, but I let the person know what I’m doing. If the connection is poor, I quickly suggest a call later. Some people are ok with driving and talking on the phone. I rarely do as I find it distracting, and the connections are often unstable and annoying.
If you receive a call and cannot be fully present, ask for a better time to call back to talk.
Be curious. Here are my favorite questions to ask.
How are you handling this time right now?
What do you miss the most these days?
What’s the most interesting or successful thing you’ve tried in the past few months?
How have you creatively found ways to be with people you care about?
What has been most disappointing for you during this time?
What is one of the high points or surprises you experienced?
What have you really enjoyed about this time?
Have you tried something new and unexpected?
What gives you hope in the morning on those days when it all feels so unending, unsettling or sad?
What do you think the world will be like after this period is over?
Listen. Ask a second question.
Listen to the answer to the initial question.
Then ask a second follow-up question to follow up on the first question.
(Tip: Don’t rush in with your response yet…. let them tell their story fully and deeply.)
It takes courage to be vulnerable, honest and open.
None of us are getting through these days unscathed or unaffected. We all are experiencing up and down days. Be more open to what makes you sad and what you’re concerned about. Share some of your fears and concerns as appropriate.
It takes courage to be honest and open with ourselves and with others as we all deal with the overwhelming events, both personal and global. Grief, sadness, loss, and fear are rocking our worlds right now.
Good conversations are a warm light of connection. They connect us to grace, love, compassion and hope. It all begins with a question and willingness to listen.
Are you having better conversations these days? I would love to hear what you’ve discovered. Please post on my blog or to this email.