When was the last time you had a sustained dialog with someone? How often do you talk deeply about topics close to your heart? Are you starved for real conversation—not social chitchat about media, not sharing of personal problems and not scheduling the next meeting? A real conversation is a sustained discussion with the intention to delve deep, to discover something new and be inspired.
I was in a restaurant recently and over half the couples were too engrossed in their cellphones to talk to each other. I overheard the people at the next table discussing politics, so my wife and I introduced ourselves and joined in. It made for a lively evening, a give and take of facts and opinions. We did not completely agree, but we did connect and converse!With so much media distraction and the ever-narrowing silos of opinion, conversation seems almost a dying art. If you Google the word conversation you get a list of dos and don’ts: how to be impactful, how to get your ideas across, how to make an impression. It sounds more like a competitive sport than a sharing of experiences. Real conversation is not rehearsed or contrived; it is a spontaneous flow of shared human interest.
As I get older, I make the effort to have deeper and more meaningful conversations. When I videoconference with my brother each month, we agree on a topic for discussion—something that came up in our reading or a subject we want to explore. I leave our talks enriched and reflective. With certain emails, I take a little more trouble—share a dream or make a provocative comment—so that the dialog stays vibrant and alive.
Here is a novel suggestion for you: Invite someone you trust and like to have a real conversation:
- Agree on a mutually interesting topic; it can be personal and/or impersonal
- Think about the topic before hand and even do a little research
- Set aside at least an hour to talk
- Agree to delve deeper rather than stay superficial
- Chat a little to warm up and then introduce the topic into the discussion
- Share your experiences as well as facts you know
- Take turns to listen closely and give each other space to reflect
- Show vulnerability and acknowledge what you do not know
- Allow for differences of opinion
- Learn from each other and do not try to ‘score points’
- Wander around the topic but return to the focus again and again
- Do a short recap at the end and decide to converse regularly.
Conversations are priceless. Like magical rituals, they conjure up mystery and inspiration. To make your relationships and inner life richer, decide to have more meaningful conversations. The opportunities are endless.