Do you ever get restless during a conversation? Yearn for something more? You notice you are bantering about, lots of words filling the air but not much filling the soul. Maybe you notice you’re getting bored listening to others carry on, or you notice you are bored and it’s you doing all the talking.
If no one redirects things, a conversation will go ’round and ’round on the same topic or related topics. I hear of and experience this hunger for something deeper when working with executive peer groups like EO and YPO forums. Members report about too much surface conversation and the frustration of trying to get the real issues to come to the surface.
If you feel the desire to change a conversation in order to meet your need for connection and for feeling a bit of emotional juice, try one or more of these strategies:
- Get Present – Surface conversation typically covers events from the past or the future (“I just got back from …” or “As soon as I get this issue resolved I will…”). As interesting as such stories can be, they churn up a lot of opinions and you will notice that what’s missing is how someone is feeling right now. Ask yourself, “What am I experiencing right now?” Then share it. For example, “I’m feeling like my heart opened up on my recent family vacation because I realized how little time I am spending with my kids lately and how much I miss them.” This is going to drop the conversation to a deeper level than if you review in detail all the places you went and people you met or make some philosophical statement or generalization about the TSA.
- Share Your Deeper Truth – Being a leader in a conversation (or not playing the victim or hostage) means expressing your deeper truth. If you are conscious, you will notice when you are in cocktail party talk mode. Instead, go ten percent outside your comfort zone in terms of disclosure. An example is, “Sure, I’m excited to watch my kids grow into adults but I’m also questioning if I’ve done enough for them or if I’ll have a close connection with them as adults.” There is a deeper truth about everything from golf to travel to the people you are talking with. Take a risk and share it.
- Ask a Good Question – While I’m busy complaining about the boring conversation and judging everyone for being so shallow, my wife is busy looking for an opening. She’s looking for something that really matters to the other person who may be rattling off judgments about the weather. She will pay enough attention to notice he misses his home town, not being aligned with his friend who is also his business partner, or being scared about where his business is heading. Then she asks a question about that deeper topic. This can put the other person just slightly outside his comfort zone but it leads him to an area that he really cares about and often wants to process. Good questions lead everyone to deeper, more meaningful conversations.
Not all conversations have to be profound or deep. Talking without a need to accomplish anything is a great way to have fun. Yet, when you feel that shallowness and notice your distraction, take ownership of where things are in the dialogue. Redirecting may allow you to experience that moment that Oscar Wilde speaks of when lives and souls touch.