Paradoxically, one of the greatest threats to good conversation has been the development and ubiquity of cell phones and texting. Attention spans have shrunk as minds flit from one chime to another each promising something enticing albeit shallow in 130 characters or less. Determined to run with the herd, people spend countless hours on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other shiny new baubles that captivate their attention. They collect “friends” like pebbles on the beach and reveal body and soul to complete strangers leaving little time for real conversations, deeper thinking or lasting relationships. No time for getting to know colleagues, acquaintances or even family members on a deeper level that could benefit them all.
It is not uncommon for family members to learn things about a loved one at their funeral that they never knew before. Consider this comment from a grandfather following the funeral of his teenage grandson. He said, “The minister said how my grandson loved to go fishing. I never knew he liked to fish. I could have taught him so much.” Or the woman at her father’s funeral who said, “For thirty years I hadn’t spoken to my father and then last week, two days before he died, I went to see him. When we had made our amends, he pulled from his pocket an envelope containing a lock of my hair as a child. “I’ve kept this all these years and I never gave up on you, he said.”
Think of the missed opportunities…think of the conversations that could have made such a difference to a grandson—for the daughter and her father. There are so many characteristics of great conversations but first you have to make yourself available. For today let me list just a few of the characteristics that apply equally to career or personal conversations before leaving you with a few questions. Great conversations:
- Have vitality and life based on the energy participants bring.
- Are focused, engaging and animated.
- Include balanced speaking and listening without interruptions.
- Are strengthened by mutual trust, respect, and acknowledgment of differing views.
- Include stories, examples, humor, and appropriate language.
Here’s what I love about great conversations besides the take-away value and the pleasant “aftertaste” that remains: When you surround yourself with like-minded people of the same level of awareness, you may begin for the first time to see more clearly your own potential. What does it cost to get in front of like-minded people? What’s the price of a cup of coffee? What’s it worth to you to buy someone lunch? Don’t wait 30 years to learn what somebody’s made of—don’t even wait one year. Start the process. What are you waiting for?
©Judy DeLapa/High-Impact Coaching 2016