May 11th, 2011
Yesterday my father called me up wanting to learn about my “rules” for the art of conversation. Of course, there are no actual “rules.” My “rules” of conversation are simply different ways of being with people. Similar to my experience with art, conversation can go one of two ways: 1)You’re left wondering “WOW, that was beautiful,” or 2) “Man, what the heck was that about?” Of course, I’m not an art expert by any means. This is merely my interpretation. So, here’s what I shared with my lovely dad last night:
1. Not interrupting
Not cool. I get it. We all have brilliant thoughts and ideas. Interrupting is just not acceptable. One way of being with another person, is simply to listen to them. Notice when you are formulating your response instead of listening to the other person. I know that when I am interrupted, I feel that my words don’t matter. Consider that there’s an opportunity to LEARN from the other person.
2. Being fully present.
We all know what active listening looks like. Direct eye contact, leaning forward, saying “Mmm Hmm” and “Ahh, yes” and “Tell me more.” What I’m pointing to is being fully present. What does that mean? For me, being fully present means that my ego is out of the picture. I’m not sitting there passing judgement. Instead, I have a natural curiosity about what the other person is saying. Now, Im not saying to kill your ego. We need our ego. Its function is to protect us. All I’m saying is to notice when that little voice in your head is passing judgement. The judgement is what’s keeping you from being present. No need to kill it off. Just notice it.
3.Noticing when you are compelled to say something.
You know this feeling. It’s that feeling where if you don’t say the thing that you HAVE to say- you will explode. It’s normal. We want to add value, or we want to get our point across, we want to be appreciated, and more often than not- we want to be RIGHT. Simply by noticing the compulsion to get your words out is a great way to practice truly being present. You’ll find reasons as to why you HAVE to say the thing that you HAVE to say. But, I promise you this, simply noticing the compulsion to say it- will slow down the process and allow you to more present in conversations with people.
4. Adding too much value
According to Marshall Goldsmith’s book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” successful people have twenty annoying habits. I love Habit #2: Adding Too Much Value. This habit refers to the overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion. Listen, we all love to look good. We all love to seem like the smart kid in the classroom. But in conversation- it’s rude. I’m not saying you have to zip your lips. I’m pointing to the fact that it isn’t always about you winning.
Ahhh. My favorite. I’ve recently taken on being human with other people. What that looks like for me is just BE with the other person. It’s not about looking good. For me, the value in being human is CONNECTION. No matter where we come from and where we’re going- we’re all humans. Unbelievably so, we’re much more similar than you think. Yes, even the person that you can’t stand and talk about behind their back. If you take the time to suspend your judgement and simply relate to one another- you’ll notice a shift in conversation.
6. Mentally checked out.
I love this quote by Richard Moss “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” When I’m on a coaching call with my client, I sit facing a wall. Why? So, I can focus and be present! Next time you “check out” when someone is speaking- notice it. What had you check out? At what point did you decide that the other person’s words weren’t worth listening to?
The 6 “rules” are meant to make you wrong or judge what you may or may not be currently doing in conversation. It’s simply a place to practice and notice how you are being with other people. I suggest that you also apply these rules to how you converse with yourself. I’d be interested to know what shows up for you.