What happens when every conversation you have is small talk?
What do you do when the only substance is the latest sporting match or movie viewed?
How do you have meaningful conversations in a world that speaks in text messages and tweets?
I recently had a conversation with someone I love who talked about how lonely they were. They talked about the different facets of their life, filled with people and communications, but nothing of substance or depth. They said that no matter what they did they seemed to be able to find fulfilling relationships. As we talked, I wept, my natural response to intense emotions which drive my guys crazy, but thankfully they were not present. I thought about the many ways I had failed this person and yet I was hopeful because we were having this conversation, but I didn't have a solution. I can be there, and I can listen, and I can do all that I can, but I am not enough.
So as not to cause alarm, this loved one will be fine. It was a candid, honest conversation one of many that we have had, but it made me wonder how many other people feel this way and about people in general and the relationships we have.
Do you have meaningful relationships, conversations with anyone?
Do you have someone you can turn to when you feel alone?
Is there a limit to how many close friendships a person can have? And does that limit a person’s influence?
As I sit and reflect on the relationships I have and those that mean the most to me, I will admit that I am very blessed that those people closest to me are my family who I know I can confide in whenever I need to. I also know that not everyone can do that, so I don't know how to solve this problem. I'm a problem solver. Life can be hard for a problem solver.
I am no expert but here a few things I've learned about meaningful conversations and sometimes put into practice. Like everyone else I am still learning and don't always practice what I preach, the children are good to remind me of this on a regular basis.
They require trust and love. They need two people who no matter what is discussed can be respectful and loving of differing opinions. No one is going to feel the same way in the same situation because we are all different we are all going to see things uniquely. Understanding this has been key.
Ask good questions. Now, this might seem silly, but often when I ask a broad question, "what did you do today?" I get a limited response, but if I can narrow down to something more specific and ask a why question there seems to be more dialogue. "Why do you think that happened this way?" or "Why do you feel_____?". The why gets to the feelings, and although feelings are hard to discuss, they all connect us to others.
Be honest. One of the biggest things I have learned is that we are all struggling with something. No one is immune, myself included, and if we are going for honesty, I'm a mess, but guess what? That is okay. I'm going to make mistakes every single day, multiple times a day. Sometimes I'm going to be a terrible mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I forget things, deadlines, homework. I lose things. I'm not the fun parent. I cry easily. The list could go on and on. I'm not alone in this, but I'm also not a horrible person. Very people in the world are truly horrible. We are good people who are progressing and loving the best we can. Most of us are trying to show that we have it all together even when we don't. Being open about who we are helps others along the way. It's hard and scary because no one wants to be rejected, but I have found that being a little vulnerable makes a difference.
Listen. This one is tough, but meaningful conversations often are not only about you. You need to ask the question and listen. Sometimes people need a second to think about their response. Quiet moments in a conversation are okay. Resist the urge to speak, so hard for someone like me. Listening allows you to ask better follow up questions.
Just try. One thing I have tried to overcome is my fears. I don't want to fail, but unless you try, you will never know what can happen. In the end, you might be surprised. I know I have been.
1. I have always found that learning who you are helps this process. You might be surprised to know that I am an introvert. Shocking right? I was to me, but it explained so many of my reactions and relationships. Can I function in a large group setting? Yes, but it takes a great deal of effort. I have learned to how to make it work, but it requires a great deal of work and energy. Knowing this helps me in how I approach my relationships, conversations, and how I read body language.
2. My glasses are not helping anymore. All of a sudden things are not working how they are suppose to. The children say it's because I am getting old and my intelligence is crystalizing while my body is shutting down. I don't need enemies; children will do.
3. John comes home today, hooray. As just sent him an email telling him how much I love him. I can't write about post about meaningful conversations and not tell him. He brought me the flowers last weekend. He's very good to me.
4. My hair was filthy, and the gray is showing more and more. I still took the picture. I'm not glamorous. I'm not whatever I'm supposed to be. I'm me, with horrible pores and dishes that need attention in the kitchen.