Last night I was on the phone with my 11-year-old, Julian. After telling me all about his gymnastics session that evening, he asked me how my day was. It was a moment of sweet connection because that simple question told me he was interested in me and he cared about my answer. It stood out because I don’t think a lot of 11-year-olds do that.
Who am I kidding? A lot of adults don’t do that. I realized I’ve had three conversations in the last two weeks that were made up of the other person doing a lot of talking about themselves and not pausing to ask me a question about me. Then I realized I had done the same thing. Once on the phone with my Mom early in the week. And again while working with a couple of colleagues during which time we had plenty of short moments for conversation. One of those colleagues was new and I realized I hadn’t asked him a single question about himself. I wonder if we fall into this trap because we tell ourselves we’re too busy and too rushed to stop talking and make room for someone else.
In my workshops, I teach presenters to end the information dump in their presentations. I teach them to create an experience that draws their audience in to the story. A conversation can be an information dump too. It happens when we grab a potential customer for 10 minutes and fill all of that precious time by talking about our business or product. It happens when we meet someone new and launch into our story without first getting to know them. It happens when we email our clients and every sentence starts with the word “I.”
At one point during my day of work, my colleagues and I sat down to eat lunch. My new colleague leaned in to my other colleague and asked, “What is your story? How did you come to be here?” I watched her reaction to his question and his body language that clearly communicated he was interested in the answer. She smiled and relaxed and she even leaned in a little too. Connection.
I know there’s a list of 10 ways to master the art of conversation out there but, really, I think we just need to stop talking, ask a question, and really listen to the answer. And if all the time is spent listening to another person tell their story, is that a bad thing?
So, how is your day going?