I’ve never been much of a talker. Writer, sure. I’ll write you a three-page letter before I ever approach you in person to discuss something. But as far as conversation goes, it has always intimidated me. I never thought it was that important to talk to people, you know, out loud. I figured if they had something to say to me, they would say it, I would respond in whatever short but concise way I could, and move on. I don’t generally like to add a bunch to conversations. My strength is more as a listener than anything. But recently, I have been learning that conversation is truly an important skill to acquire. Because real conversation is the only thing that truly connects two human beings.
Sure, you can chat away on a tiny little cell phone screen, but are you really getting to know a person that way? Are you learning about their little quirks or expressions? Can you tell when something makes them uncomfortable, or how about happy, or intrigued? It’s so easy to hide behind an electronic device. You can pretend to be anyone and maybe that’s why more people are communicating more through social media or other forms of electronic communication than ever before. Because they are so afraid of others finding out who they truly are. But let me give you a little bit of advice: it’s not that scary to talk to people. Most of the time, they are just as intimidated as you are, but once you break the ice and find a mutual interest you can talk about, you will feel so much more connected to that person than if you were simply texting them or chatting with them on Facebook.
Someone close to me told me straight out that I sucked at conversation. They weren’t trying to be mean, but rather trying to help me out by saying that I could really work on my people skills. At first, I was a bit offended. I thought they were calling me dull, because come on, I’m really good at communicating with people…on paper. But then I realized that conversation really is important. I mean the most interesting people usually are good communicators. Plus, if I truly wanted to connect more with people and get to know them, I had to actually talk to them. So I decided I would try to talk.
I “google-d” how to create conversation. One article I read said to discuss your senses – as in whatever you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel. Comment on whatever you are currently viewing or tasting or feeling or hearing or smelling. Another article said to discuss experiences you’ve recently had or ones you had in the past that may or may not be relevant. Another said to ask the other person questions and hope it turns into fuller discussion. I felt so lost. There were so many tips and tricks on how to have a conversation. I felt like a dummy trying to figure this out since “normal” people learn how to do this when they are young, but somehow I missed out on that important life lesson.
So I just went for it. I started commenting on whatever I could find, feel, or experience. I started with the weather. “OH it’s such a nice warm day today. You know I love when the weather is like this. I remember when I was a kid I used to love laying on the grass and looking up at the clear blue skies.” It did work…temporarily. The person I was speaking to also commented on the weather saying how much they enjoyed the summer season. As we spent more time together, I started to bring up other things. Commenting on the activity we were indulging in (shopping). Bringing up past experiences. Bringing up future experiences I’d like to try. It felt kind of awkward at first, but then we finally began to connect. Voila! Operation Human Connection: Success!
We began speaking more regularly, going back and forth between topics. We even had a few deeper conversations that required sharing beliefs upon different values or topics that we were for or against. I began to learn more about this person, even though I had known them for years! But now I was truly learning about them. Learning about what made them fired up or passionate. I learned how every time they discussed something uncomfortable they would clear their throat more often or look away. I learned that they really enjoyed climbing trees as a kid. I began to truly listen to what someone else had to say and I, myself, also began to share the more vulnerable aspects of my life that I would not share on a normal basis. This is what human connection is about. It’s not about creating a façade of what you wish you were like, but showing people who you truly are. It’s about listening to another person and empathizing with what they have to say. It’s about giving your opinions straight out without editing your words. It’s about learning that it’s ok to be nervous or shy or awkward, because that other person probably feels the same way on some level.
This single experience helped me to reach out to other people. Strangers. People at the grocery store. I’d ask them how they were doing and if they said, fine, I’d further open up the conversation by asking if they had any plans that night or how their weekend was.
I was at the metro station the other day waiting for the train. It was my first time ever riding the metro. And I decided to share that with the fellow passengers. One man was speaking about how it was his birthday and he was meeting his wife in another city to go out to dinner. I told him how it was my birthday last week. We both shared a laugh at the coincidence that both our birthdays were so close together and wished each other happy birthday before moving along. Then another lady told me about her experience riding the metro for years and how she loved how she could just kick back and read a novel on her way home from work rather than sitting in traffic. It was fascinating hearing the stories of all of these people – strangers – human beings. Everyone had a different story. And I think one of the most important parts of life is learning about other’s stories and trying to find the connection that lies between yours and theirs. You never know what you might learn. You never know who will further help you along with your own journey and pass a long a piece of wisdom you might not have found otherwise.
Last Monday, on a whim I decided to go get my eyebrows waxed. At first I was so nervous because I had to spend an entire half hour with this lady two inches from my face. I felt like it would be so awkward and that she would probably make some sort of awkward conversation like most hair or cosmetics specialists do. You know, they ask you how your day is or why you’re getting your hair done and you feel so awkward answering because you’re like I just want to get my hair done and leave. OK maybe that’s just me. But anyway, back to my point. So I went to get my eyebrows done and this girl was totally awesome! She opened me up. She asked me about my passions and what I liked to do and I began overflowing with facts about myself as if I had known her for years. I felt so comfortable and it was because I truly felt connected to this other human being. I left the counter feeling like I had just seen an old friend and I gave her a hug goodbye.
It’s generally such a pleasant feeling when we can connect with people in that way, whether strangers or close friends. I think why connection is so important is because it makes you feel understood and when two people begin to understand each other, it creates such a beautiful thing. I feel that we need to reach out to people more often and try to understand them and learn about their stories. I think it’s so important especially in this day and age where true communication is a dying art form. We don’t want to allow electronic communication to take over because that’s not true communication no matter how convenient it may seem. So I encourage you all to reach out to someone. You will feel so much better about yourself for doing it because it really does bring out a sense of confidence (hint hint: showing yourself some lovin’!). Plus, you will totally make someone else’s day as well, which is priceless!
The Self Love Challenge: Reach out and talk to someone!
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