I don't think that I'm alone in saying that in the past few years, as social media and unlimited content on the internet have become more prevalent, I've become increasingly unimpressed with my face-to-face, in-person conversation skills. Now, let's be clear, I've never been the world's greatest conversationalist, but as my daily life conversations were becoming fewer, I was beginning to feel disconnected.
Reflecting on this disconnection and the fact that Lent was soon approaching, I created my favourite Lenten season so far and called it 40 Days of Conversation. I vowed to cut down Internet time by avoiding things like Netflix and Youtube to make time for more conversation (i.e, at least 1 random conversation per day with a stranger or someone I wouldn't typically have conversation with). Those who know me know that I am also really shy so this was indeed a challenge but the results were even better than I could have imagined! Here's what I learned.
Initiating conversation is the hardest part.
This one has definitely been said before but it's worth repeating because it's so true! Starting a conversation takes courage. My mind threw every excuse at me from "That person's too busy, they won't want to chat" to "I'm too busy, I don't have time to chat." At the end of the day though, it really was the vulnerability it takes to start a conversation that was holding me back and I found that not one person in my 40 days of conversation ignored my attempt at a conversation.
Like anything, it takes practice.
Yes there were some red faces and awkward conversations along the way and I'm sure I will have awkward conversations in the future but the more conversations I had, the more comfortable I became with them, and the easier it became to laugh off the conversation blunders.
Small talk has more value than I thought.
Being the introvert type that I am, I've always hated small talk, deeming it trivial. I'd rather talk about big ideas, life, and love. However, I have begun to realize that most people (including myself) aren't actually comfortable with divulging their deepest, darkest secrets with someone they just met or haven't seen in a while (who knew?). I started instead viewing conversation as an intricate dance (that I'm still learning) and small-talk is among the first steps, maybe even the necessary warm-up.
Every conversation is a learning opportunity.
Inspired by a TEDTalk by Celeste Headlee, I began to approach my conversations with the mantra, "What can I learn from this conversation?" This was pivotal. Not only did this make for easier, free-flowing conversation but I learned so much. I learned things I already knew I cared about like gardens and cooking and traveling but I also learned about things I never took an interest in before like car sales and BMX bikes. I learned what it was like to be living in Nepal during the most recent major earthquake and I learned what it was like to live in Hamilton for 93 years. As someone who loves learning, this made every new conversation exciting and only made me want to keep having more.
Being mindful and aware really does lead to easier and better conversation.
I often fall into the trap of thinking about where the conversation is going, what I'm going to say next, how I'm going to keep the conversation alive, how to avoid being awkward, etc... instead of actually paying attention to the conversation that's happening. As I started to become more aware of how much I was doing this, my conversations began to change. Paired with daily meditations, I was able to be more present in my conversations and with the goal of learning from each one of them, the conversations naturally flowed from one topic to the next with minimal effort. Just like that, my conversations began to look more like that intricate dance I imagined. Although, I did have some help from the very insightful book that I would highly recommend, The Lost Art of Good Conversation, by Sakyong Mipham.
Social media can lead to connection depending on how you use it.
As much as I often vilify social media, it did help me in creating opportunities for conversation, namely, finding out about networking events. I came to the conclusion that mindful use of social media paired with real-life conversation can actually help with genuine, human connection.
More conversations lead to more opportunities for conversation.
In fact, by the end of the 40 Days of Conversation, I was finding it increasingly difficult to have random conversation because my spare time became increasingly full with coffee dates and events with people I had already connected with through random conversations earlier on in the 40 days.
As Easter approaches and my 40 Days of Conversation comes to an end, I'm still not the world's greatest conversationalist but I feel more connected and ready to keep having meaningful conversations moving forward. How do you re-connect? What do your conversations look like?
Remember, if you're feeling disconnected from the world and people around you and don't quite know where to begin to get re-connected, it may be time to seek out the help of a trusted healthcare professional.
Have a Happy Easter and as always warmest wishes,