I love to talk. I will go on and on about something I’m interested in, especially if I’ve discerned that my audience is even slightly interested in the topic. Lord help you if you agree with me, because that will just fuel the fire.
The trouble is, I sometimes leave a conversation feeling unsatisfied, and I haven’t been able to understand why. Recently, I’ve started paying more attention to that feeling, and experimenting with a different approach. It was really helpful when I had 2 consecutive conversations with the same person over two days, my good friend Matt.
In the first conversation, I blustered on about grand topics and big picture perspectives, and I left the conversation feeling unsettled. I thought about it, and I realized that I felt like I had failed to really connect with him. Sure, I had projected a lot of words at him, and what I was saying was correct in some sense, but it didn’t reflect the personal connection we have. I was speaking about ideals when I should have been empathizing with the person. The next day, I took another run at it, and this time I said what I had meant to say. No long pronouncements of ideology, just simple, honest and emotionally open dialogue.
And here’s the real secret: I listened. Instead of defending this system or that set of rules, I paid attention to his feelings and his experience, and I told him that he had done the best job possible and I was proud of him. And I am.
There is a time and a place for debates on public policy and the complicated nature of the human animal, and knowing when not to spout off and lecture is a pretty important skill. Hopefully, I’ll get better at curbing my speechifying urges, so that I can spend more time actually communicating with the people around me.