Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling like if you hadn’t asked questions to the person you were talking to, there wouldn’t have been any conversation at all?
It happens to me all the time.
I’m a naturally curious person, at least when it comes to humans. I enjoy hearing peoples’ ‘stories’, where they come from, how they experience the world, what makes them tick. And I try and learn something from everyone I meet. So I ask questions. And I listen to the answers.
I am also the type of person who doesn’t volunteer much information about myself. If you ask, I’ll answer openly and honestly. But if you don’t ask, I won’t tell.
Maybe its a longstanding sensitivity to coming across as someone who is self-absorbed. Maybe it’s a kind of shyness. Maybe it’s an insecurity about how it will be received.
But it’s also a reaction to having had the experience of sharing something about myself [it doesn’t have to be DMC material] and watching the words land with a thud at the other person’s feet.
No real response.
All of this begs the question:
What is the purpose of conversation?
Why do we engage in dialogue with another human being?
Aside from getting things done, why do we need to communicate with each other?
We Communicate to Connect
Language and speech revolve around creating connection.
In the ideal, communication is a flow back and forth. That flow facilitates understanding, trust, learning, and belonging. It says ‘we’ and not just ‘me’.
But for that communication to work, there has to be a give and take. A speaker and a listener. And those two positions naturally switch off with one another so that conversation looks like a beautiful dance rather than a push-pull or a solo person hitting a tennis ball against a wall.
So how do we choreograph the dance of conversation to create connection?
Connecting conversation happens when both dance partners bring
two key elements to the floor:
Arguably the most endearing aspect of young children is their curiosity(that and their unabashed honesty 😉 .
No preconceived notions.
Just an open and wholehearted desire to explore, experience and learn.
How often do you enter a conversation with nothing but your curiosity?
How would your communication style be different if you went into every conversation with the goal of understanding and learning something new?
How would the quality of your connection with others change if you allowed curiosity to lead the charge?
How would you express that curiosity?
More often than not, curiosity is expressed through asking thoughtful questions and responding with reflective statements that give the speaker a sense of being heard and understood.
Caution: not all questions are created equal.
For example, if you tell a friend about a choice you made that you feel bad about and she asks (even with curiosity), “How could you have been so stupid?”, you’re unlikely to open up to her again.
However, if your curiosity question is “what is the hardest part about this for you?”, you open up breathing space for the relationship and create a supportive environment for connection to build.
So what is the difference between an insensitive question and a connecting question?
You got it… Caring.
Call to mind a caring person.
What makes them caring in your eyes?
When I think of someone who is caring, I think of kindness, generosity of spirit, openness, non-judgement, and the ability to see what someone else needs and acknowledging that need. When and where appropriate (let’s leave co-dependence out of this for now), a caring person may help the person meet that need.
If we apply this to conversation, caring means focusing on the person in front of you with kindness and a generosity of spirit. It means seeing your friend’s world through their eyes and responding with empathy and understanding.
If you fuse that caring with curiosity, you have a recipe for a deeply connecting conversation. No agenda. Just a loving give and take.
What a gorgeous dance that is.
In your next conversation with someone you would like to connect more deeply with, take a moment to center yourself before the conversation in a mindset of curiosity and caring.
Let me know how it impacts the dynamic!