Polite conversation, (let’s admit) is boring.
We spend our days going about our business, waving at neighbors, interacting with co-workers and chatting at parties; yet we still feel disconnected and lonely.
There’s a woman in my neighborhood I’ve never really connected with conversationally, although I’m very social, I can be shy at times and find myself often waving at her but never stopping to chat.
A few weeks ago she came walking up the street with her dog as I did my normal hello wave and busied myself unloading my car. She crossed the street and walked right up to me.
As we started making small talk about the weather and her dog, I realized I felt awkward and superficial. I wanted out of the moment and wanted her to keep walking. Without thinking I blurted out; “well, it was nice to see you but i have to run, my boyfriend and i have an appointment we’re trying to make and I’m late.” She asked “what kind of appointment?”
Forgetting to edit because I felt awkward , I answered “a couples counseling session”. She responded by telling me that she and her boyfriend were in counseling because she’s trying to wean herself off anti-depressants.
In that 3 second twist of the conversation both of our guards came down.
I immediately relaxed and was interested. Obviously this woman is going through something. I said “really?”
She volunteered that she had recently lived somewhere that had been cloudy most of the time and her moods were out of balance. Turns out she had been on them for a few years now and wanted off; but was struggling and her relationship had been affected.
Suddenly, I felt close to her. We had common ground; and because of that ground, compassion filled my heart. Now every time I see her, I actually cross the street to say hello and am genuinely interested in knowing how she’s doing.
What if we opened up when someone asks how we’re doing and put the “pat” answer of fine on the shelf for a while? When we drop our guard with others, it allows them a chance to connect on an authentic level.
What if we really showed the world who we really are and how we’re actually doing? I have a feeling we would discover common ground daily and experience a real sense of connection with one another.
Can you imagine what the world would have thought had our own president here in the US choked up visibly on camera when discussing last year’s oil spill? I’m not suggesting a sobbing breakdown live on CNN, but rather the allowance of real human emotion showing through the television.
Like him or not, all of our hearts would have united in that common sadness.
As human beings, we’re wired for compassion yet we can’t tap into it unless we have a sense of another’s “humanness”.
We’ve seen professional athletes on the other team get hurt during a game; one second we’re screaming “get him, stop him, beat him!”, the next minute we gasp in shock and heartfelt concern as he lies on the field injured. We’re immediately flooded with compassion for our team’s former enemy just a few seconds ago.
As humans we’re naturally driven by our hearts far more than our heads. Yet sadly, we’re raised in this world to act in the opposite fashion. “Be safe, don’t show your soft side, definitely don’t show your weakness.”I’m finding that the more I show the world my soft underbelly, who I really am and share with courage that I too have struggles; the more the world reflects kindness and intimacy.
It only takes one person with nerve to open up during a conversation and say it how it really is; can you be that person?
I once spoke to a man I had never met before at an art show. In the first 2 minutes of conversation we exhausted our small talk.
I was shifting foot to foot looking for an out when suddenly he said “I was married for 10 years and realized that I never loved myself.” I immediately halted the planned goodbye in my head and faced him fully. My whole body relaxed and I was 100% interested in what he had to say. He wasn’t one of those drippy, needy conversationalists looking for an ear to chew, he was authentically sharing enough of himself to reveal to me that he was human.
The conversation exploded over the next 20 minutes as we actively engaged in intimacy.
Intimacy. We all know the over used phrase: into you I see, yet it’s true. Only by dropping our guards and showing our soft under bellies do we give the people around us an opportunity to really “see us”.
The only question left is this: Who goes first?