I’ve had a lot on my mind these last months. Guessing you have, too. So I’ll get to my point. I need your advice. As many of you know, I’ve been working on my second book. It’s about how to have more meaningful and memorable conversations. And how to do so with greater grace, ease, authenticity, confidence, and joy. I guess you could call it the prequel to my first book, The Intentional Networker.
Yes, it’s taking forever!! Partly because there’s so much to learn and say about how to be a really good conversationalist. (Side note #1: Being a good conversationalist is not about being the most knowledgeable or fascinating person in the room, having charm or “the gift of gab,” always knowing what to say, etc. It’s really about knowing what to ask — and when to listen. Studies reveal very few of us are good at this.)
Does this topic interest you? Even a little?
The reason I ask is I’m hearing and seeing so may “conversations” – no, let’s call them what they really are: “non-versations” (thanks, Mike Robertson, for introducing me to that word). These exchanges, many of them on social media, are shockingly curt, shallow, one-way, self-focused, dismissive, mean, divisive, offensive, and even bullying. There’s name-calling, drama, and a lot of flaming friendship bridges: “If you don’t believe in _____, then unfriend me now!” “If you don’t vote for ____ then you’re _____.” “If you don’t feel _____ I’m so done with you!”
Does this bother you? Is this what we’ve become? Does anyone care about making, keeping, and building friendships anymore? How about traits such as character, patience, kindness, understanding, graciousness, self-management, or respect? And is it not possible for there to be more than one point of view? And are there any views in the middle? Any gray areas that need closer examination? Certainly, I’m a fan of boundaries and respect, but it sure seems like we are being very impatient and unkind with each other.
This makes me so sad.
Interestingly (or ironically), I was working on the chapter about Graciousness, Respect & Likability in the weeks leading up to the election. Boy, that was interesting. It became so clear that we really need these powerful traits — and in the giant economy size — now more than ever. But they are rare.
All that said, I’ve been asking myself daily — and now I’m asking all of you…
Am I wasting my time working on a book about meaningful conversation? Is anyone out there interested in reading a book that might help us regain our heart, soul, caring and dignity with each other? Our ability to talk, listen, get to know each other, and understand each other? Does anyone want to learn to connect in ways that could potentially build bridges, give us something to think (or laugh) about, and add more meaning and joy to our lives? (Side note #2: Being a good conversationalist – and being in good company – can boost your mood and immunity, reduce pain, keep your mind sharp, and add years to your life. And that’s not even getting to the parts about improving your career, creativity, relationships, and sense of belonging, which we humans are hard-wired for.) Or would we rather be “right?”
I’d truly appreciate your opinions and thoughts on this. You can comment here or simply reply to this email. I’m listening.
Yes!! Write the book. We need it!!
Thanks so much, Cynthia! Appreciate the vote of confidence. And you reading!
Cynthia, if I haven’t yet said thank you….thank you!
Are you wasting your time working on a book about meaningful conversation? NO! Now, more than ever, Patti, people need to learn how to have more meaningful conversations.
Using the past four years as a barometer, whether from a social or a political point of view, we have regressed into a sea of meaningless (or certainly less important) conversations. Your book can give the reader the tools to bring meaning back into conversations.
As a bonus, it will give people hope to a future with a more civil atmosphere of communication. There are MANY people out there who are clamoring for the relief your book will deliver.
Stay the course, Patti. I want to be one of the first to buy it!
Thanks, so much, Mike! Coming from you that is encouraging. Appreciate you reading and commenting so positively. Maybe there is hope!
OH PATTI! Wow. First, let me just say that I would read pretty much anything you put out, I’m a big fan. Second, this is needed now more than ever… you framed it ever so eloquently. Please write, share, and bless us with your gift to help us grow in actual meaningful ways, not just to jump on the latest trends of making sure everyone see’s my reading list in the background of my zoom meeting. Plus, being right is highly overrated.
Thanks for asking and when will it be available?! 🙂
Wow, Jennifer, thanks! SO great to hear from you! Appreciate your high praise. I feel like Tinkerbell, hoping people clap a little to keep the twinkle alive!
My opinion is that this book is needed now, more than ever. We all need to learn (or be reminded) of the lessons/information that you can share in this book as we try to restore our ability to be good citizens and kind people. Even as many of us are now working remotely, when we’re able to get back to assembling together, wouldn’t it be nice to be better at conversing with others?
Hi Mary! Appreciate you reading and commenting. It sure would be nice to be ready to socialize with grace and civility again!
Sadly, it seems to me the folks who are most in need of this are the very ones closing the door to other people’s views/opinions!
Everyone needs it but I am seeing closed doors and crickets on conversation threads all over the place . I would love for it to be published and mandatory reading in high schools
Thanks, Cindy. Great to hear from you. Yes, it’s often the people who need it most (but don’t believe they need it – or they just tune out anyone else’s voice or thoughts but their own) who will never consider reading it and learning these important skills.
Would love to have this book and would appreciate any tips on how to have a meaningful conversation with someone who has radically different views than yours. How do we bridge the divide?
Hello Jessica! Appreciate you reading, your support, and very important question. To be honest, I am learning all this myself. As a writer / author / blogger / speaker / facilitator/ artist/ life-long learner, I’m still very much wondering and curious about all this. I am learning a lot as I do research, examine my own thoughts and perspectives, hear those of others, and write. I can’t wait to share what I am learning with those who are truly interested.
I indulge in the challenge of listening to Esther Perel’s discussions on a variety of interpersonal skills, or lack thereof. Your query or prompt reminded me of her writings on taboos … “In order to live within civilization, society dictates that we must repress our primitive impulses for the greater good. In order to live within our relationships, the same is true. We live and love within a highly-complex and nuanced set of rules about what is right and what is wrong; what is acceptable and what lines are not to be crossed. And yet, some of our greatest pleasures and most significant advancements can come from crossing those very lines…doing the thing we’re not supposed to do…asking the questions we shouldn’t dare ask. Why?”
Meaningful conversation involves a trusting exchange, assuming the delivery and the receipt to absorb fully the words and intent before processing into formulating a response. Too often, the processing of information through conversation, normally subject to these same complex set of rules of acceptability, is short-circuited by the shielding of person behind the quick retort that presents barriers of invulnerability. Conversation has fallen to a status of affirmation or agreement rather than exchange of opinions or ideas, hence the drama, shortness, tribalism and defiance of dissent. In a society dominated by the instant judgement of social media, desire for acceptability eclipses the ability to accept differences, even if just in opinion. Perhaps conversation is just one more victim we can rescue with intention, presence, and as with any worthy taboo, desire to question.
Building bridges, physically or in community, involves leaving one’s spot to reach “the other side” , and yes, while we are hard wired to crave that connection, we have trained ourselves too well in self preservation. Connection involves risk, do we dare cross that line? I look forward to your next book.
Wow, Jessica! Appreciate this deep comment. Lots of gems and thoughts worth considering. Grateful for your interest and support!
Absolutely Patti! This book sounds like a gem, a comforting resource when we feel vulnerable in conversations where we don’t have all the answers. Interesting that grace, respect and likability are all things we need to give ourselves first, before we can give to others.
Laura, thank you so much for reading and for your supportive reply! That last line says a lot! We have to start with how we talk to and treat ourselves. Anything festering inside is going to leak out in our words, tone, emotions.
Patti – The biggest problem with social media “conversations” is that social media proffers immediate and static responses–typically triggered by something that produced some sort of neurotransmitter surge in our brains. Or should I say our lower brains. Social media objectifies its subjects, turning them/us into the snippets of their/our thoughts.
Conversations in real life do not progress as land mine here, land mine there. The ebb and flow—the TIME— it takes to develop real, authentic, genuine connection with people is reduced to glamorously presented ones and zeroes. Our brains are functioning on social media as if we were sitting in front of a slot machine (and the developers know this and have built interfaces to get us eager and agitated in the same way as compulsive gamblers). When someone likes or loves or cares or whatevs, we get a dopamine hit just like an addict.
And that’s addicting. And it’s lower brain. And it’s not about friendship or conversation or authenticity. It’s a defense posture that is stacked against our place in evolution.
Soap box aside, it’s faux connection. The key is to remove ourselves from the reactive space, know that everyone feels lost and isolated and fearful right now, and pause in our quick response. (I’ve been doing that on email for decades; and in person thanks to my training as a psychotherapist.) Recognize that circumstances have conspired to addict us to the only thing that will not infect us or kill us—our devices.
But then again, even that remains up for debate.
BTW – when are we Zooming 🙂
Hello Hope! Great to hear from you! (Yes, we are due for our Zoom – will get on that!) As usual, your background, smarts, observations, knowledge of human nature, and wit are so helpful here. I’m so grateful for the response so far. I was in a place of ZERO expectations. Learning a lot as always.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Please keep going, I think you will have a great deal of impact/influence on a lot of folks. I suspect many people are search for something like this….whether they know it or not.
Keep on making a difference.
Thank you so much, Charlie! Appreciate you reading and your kind, supportive words!
Especially after pandemic, I think we’re all going to have to reset all of our social interactions. You know I’m a fan of anything that you do. Is there a way after Covid to engage your followers in how we can have those convos? We are all Zoomed out.
Thanks for reading and being a fan, Nancy! And, to be honest, I never really embraced Zoom as enthusiastically as many did. Just never adapted. I still prefer in-person or phone! But here we are, dealing with reality and what we have to work with, right? I know we will all have to resurrect, sharpen, renew, and maybe even rethink and retool our conversation habits after going through so much in this past year. I’d love to bring back my conversation salons, maybe take them on the road, and of course workshops will be part of my future offerings. I have so much material and many ideas, my files are bursting! Stay tuned!
I think what upsets most people on social media are the blowhards in your example who seem to only be looking for validation that they are right. Or maybe, more important, that you are wrong. That attitude and expectation, seeking validation from the interchange, simply doesn’t work in conversation.
Most of these blowhards will not change anytime soon, so they are not in your target audience.
Thankfully, most people seem quite interested in learning about *you,* When that is your goal, to hear a good story about somebody/something you didn’t know before without judging it, then you can converse.
The right attitude and expectation is necessary. When somebody struggling to converse figures that out then they will eat up your book of to do that in a way that engages your conversing partner.
Hi Jerry! Thanks for this comment. People sure seem to have a lot of opinions and beliefs, don’t they? I have always resonated with John Mayer’s song “Belief.” The music is great but the lyrics… “Belief is a beautiful armor…But makes for the heaviest sword.’ And you are right, it’s so much fun to hear people’s stories: their growing up years, what got them to where they are now, who influenced them along the way, their smartest (and most bone-head) decisions, etc. I’m hoping as I get this book written and published that I will be able to put down on the pages little insights, techniques, and so forth that really change how people look at conversation and how they fit themselves – their genuine, but best selves – into an exchange.