Conversations and How to Have Them

Together we discussed friendship, which was one of my favorite experiences. But recently I have noticed that friendship (or relationships in general) are built and fueled by conversations.

Over the past few months I have been observing conversations.

But conversations are weird.

Some are like duels.

Some are like speeches.

Some are veiled.

Some are superficial.

Only a few are deep and memorable.

I recently shared some of these conversation observations with a class. Not just any class, but the last class of the year. This particular class has become a yearly tradition and it isn’t lost on me that the final chapter of the year (right before the Holiday Season) is a class on Emotional Intelligence.

Before I shared, I asked.

“What does it take to have a good conversation?”

The answers came.

“Listening. Letting other people speak. Making eye contact. Not being distracted. Not looking at your phone. Asking questions.”

Great answers. Great advice.

It was the last one that really resonated with me. It is what I have been observing.

Asking questions.

You need all of the first things, but it is the last part that may make the real difference.

Asking questions.

Demonstrates that you are interested in others and not just about yourself. (I have a friend who has made extreme strides in this area, and jokes about how they used to be as a reminder. During a conversation they will jump in with “Enough about me, now I want to hear what you think about me.”

Asking questions.

Questions help you to learn about others.

My assignment to this class was to spend the Holiday Season practicing having conversations. This practice starts with asking questions. It may be helpful to try out a few of these questions over your Holiday Season as well.

  1. How are you? (And listen to the reply. Wait for a reply beyond “I’m good” or “Fine” and maybe ask a second time. Really, how are you?
  2. What is going well?
  3. What are you most excited for in 2017?
  4. What are three things that you would most like to accomplish in the next year?
  5. What is the last book you read?
  6. How are you balancing your multiple roles?
  7. Can you tell me a little more about what you do? What most excites you about what you do?

And the list goes on.

Be careful about asking a question, then jumping in with your own answers to each of these questions. Remember my friend’s quote, this is about them, not you.

Asking questions.

Go try it out and let us know how it goes.

P.S. Sometimes conversations drift towards things that are not as important (Politics, Sports, the Weather) and I have a fun trigger phrase with a few friends when we drift off. Whenever one of us dwells too much on the latest game stats or news story, one of us remembers to say, “Are you Sad?” (Because we must be avoiding real conversation out of sadness…) We all chuckle and get back to focusing on things that matter most.

Guess…with positive intent

Yesterday we had one of those conversations.

The kind of conversation that matters.

The kind of conversation that means something.

We talked about marriage and when you just take the leap.

We talked about kids and parenting.

We talked about struggling when you are young, in the middle, and when you are older.

We talked about roles in life.

We talked about jobs and insurance.

We talked about finances and trying to create and stick to a direction.

We talked about good advice we get from others.

We talked about bad advice we get from others.

We talked about making plans.

We talked about trying to make everything perfect.

We talked about waiting to act.

Road Map

We talked about how in life there isn’t some clearly defined road map. And depending on your circumstances or life story it is easy to feel completely lost without a good example of how to move forward.

We don’t have all the answers.

We are not always sure which way to go.

We are not given a map in life.

We have to guess.

We decided that the best advice is guess with positive intent.

We decided to define a “guess with positive intent” as evaluating options, and taking your best shot at the time, but with the intention of doing something good, positive, and meaningful. This doesn’t mean that we will always get it right, but this option moves us forward without having to be perfect, but our desire is to do something well and meaningful. If it was not the “perfect” choice, you make the next guess with positive intent, and keep trying.

How do you become a good parent? No idea. Try stuff. Guess. But guess with positive intent.

How do you know when to get married? No idea. Guess. But guess with positive intent.

How do you know which career path to take? No idea. Guess. But guess with positive intent.

How do you make a relationship last? No idea. Guess. But guess with positive intent.

How do you decide when to switch careers, or try something new? No idea. Guess. But guess with positive intent.

How do you [insert your question or dilemma here].

Our advice. Guess. But guess with positive intent.

 

The Decade of Training

Wander Tag(Image Courtesy of Etsy.com)

Through a combination of coaching conversations, and reflections on my own life I have noticed a pattern. Many of us wish we were further along in our lives, careers, or relationships. We speak as if there is some place we should be, but we are behind in the race. We speak with regret and sadness as if we are currently missing out and life would be somehow different.

“I have been in this job for 6 years now and am in a rut and it feels wasted.”

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and moved from job to job and didn’t make progress.”

“School was not a focus for me, and I wasted those years.  Now I have to go back again.”

“Just imagine where I would have been if I didn’t squander those years.”

These conversations made me think of that quote from J.R.R. Tolkien. Maybe it is okay to wander for a little while, because those years are not always lost.

Instead of seeing those years (however long it has been) as a waste, maybe a perspective change would help. Perhaps we could view that time as the Decade of Training.

The Decade of Training helped form who we are today.

The Decade of Training helped us create goals and start to pursue them.

The Decade of Training helped us try different things.

The Decade of Training helped us know that failure is part of the journey.

The Decade of Training helped us learn to get back up and keep moving.

Those years in the Decade of Training are not necessarily lost, unless you give up and assume that it is too late to pursue the goals for your life, career (or second career, or third career), or relationships.

Most of us today will live into our 90s. To put that in perspective, when we reach 60, we will still have 1/3 of our lives ahead of us.

The real question is now that you have been trained, what will you do with it?