Were they engaged?
Ok, I know it is close to Valentine’s Day, but I am not referring to that type of engagement.
This is about knowing the difference between the people who really care about what we are saying and the people who are only politely pretending to care.
It has taken me far too many years to notice the difference, but finally doing so has made a profound impact upon how many words I speak.
Formerly, I would just keep talking long after someone had stopped listening because I was too insensitive or naïve to notice. What a waste for everyone!
Engagement makes life worth living. Wait for it.
Save the airspace.
I never thought about what a diva Goldilocks was until my friend Rachel (who is difficult to please) mentioned that her husband called her “Goldilocks.”
After listening to Rachel talk about the temperature of her tea (for what seemed like forever), I said, “I guess it’s okay to be particular, as long as you don’t bore the rest of us by blabbering about it.”
I hope she is still my friend.
But, the whole episode got me thinking about how many of us tend to bore others by talking about random things we don’t like, or want more or less of, or can’t handle, or wish were different.
Anyway, if I am discontent about something, I think I’ll consider if it really matters to anyone else before I blab about it.
I hate that feeling. Sometimes it’s an ache for real conversation that gets to the heart of things.
The following few stanzas from Oriah Mountain Dreamer express it…
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
(You might get a chance to use this during the holidays.)
Besides memory issues, we repeat ourselves because we are not sure someone…
- Believes us
- Cares about what we said
- Heard us the first time
So, instead of rolling your eyes, putting up with us, or not saying anything because you don’t want to hurt our feelings, help us be less boring by using the following tips instead:
Repeat our message back to us, followed by one of these statements:
- I value your input and am considering it.
- I’ve heard that from you before and understood. Saying it again is usually ineffective.
- Very interesting, although I have a different approach.
- I know you said that because you care about me or think it is important for me.
I recently analyzed the elements of a (mostly subconscious) process that I use to measure my own maturity and that of others:
- In conversation, are others given the benefit of a doubt before they are condemned?
- Is the best being assumed about another’s motives?
- Are communications productive vs. full of anger, worry, or fear?
- Are the statements made about others constructive vs. destructive?
- Is responsibility taken for circumstances vs. playing the victim?
- Is kindness shown toward people from whom there is nothing to gain?
- Is sincere interest demonstrated in others vs. indifference or positioning?
- Is there a willingness to listen to, rather than refute, the opinions of others?
- Is there passion to improve even though it may involve vulnerability or pain?
Why do we get so much enjoyment out of telling people how busy we are, how hard we work, how little sleep we got, how many people disappointed us today, or what went wrong at the restaurant or auto shop? Is it because we don’t have anything else to talk about? Or is it because we think other people don’t have enough frustrations of their own? Or is it that we think this gives us some type of initiation into the brotherhood or sisterhood 0f whiners?
Whatever it is, it’s completely whacked.
“I was thinking about you today and how much you have meant to my life.”
“Tell me the highlight of your day.”
“Have I told you lately how proud of you I am?”
Yesterday, a friend had a monologue (vs. a conversation) with me. You probably know what I’m talking about: the person who just goes on and on and on. I am one of those people…currently in rehab.
I’ve found that, in general, people are not listening to us when we are talking about ourselves. And it’s not always because they are narcissistic, mean, or selfish. Mostly, they are just too busy sorting through their own stuff.
My rehab consists of thinking about this before launching into dissertations. I’m not suggesting that thorough conversation is never apropos, only that we should turn conversations back over to each other frequently.
If we wait for their eyes to roll back into their heads before we decide to share the airspace, it may be too late.
Striking up a conversation with a stranger is difficult, especially when people keep to themselves or seem busy. Sunday, while dragging in the last mile of a race event, I had to get my mind off myself, so I asked two teenagers (who were also dragging a little) to tell me about a name that was on their shirts.
Their faces lit up and the ensuing conversation was informative and energizing. It kept all three of us in the race and we met several other interesting people as a result.
The other runners who were formerly just “props” in our world suddenly were animated, loveable and interesting.
We all have so much in common but we may never know until someone risks one little question.