Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Truly Present Conversation

I've been reading through a fantastic book titled Stop Being Lonely: Three Simple Steps to Developing Close Friendships and Deep Relationships. This book has been nothing short of amazing and I highly recommend anyone reading this post should read this book.

While reading from it today, the text made me consider that I can further improve on listening to people without comparing or feeling comparison from things in my own past. When someone tells me something about their past, maybe how their mother treated them one time or that studying for math while going through school was really easy for them, I can't help but feel a comparison within me surface shifting the focus from them back to me. This is not helpful for developing closeness in that relationship!

Instead, what I'd like to start practicing is to not react and replace the reacting with a deepening interest in what that other person has confided to me. The book suggests that I can do that by asking inviting, generally open-ended questions with the goal of getting to know that other person's perspective in a better manner. The goal is not to have them simply state something from their past and then for me to state something from my past in a back-and-forth comparison kind of way. Why? Because that is a surfacy, competitive game of conversational ping pong. It does not allow me to better get to know anything about that person because I didn't use those moments with them to ponder and consider what they told me about themselves. I quickly replaced it with my own past experience leaving that conversation in an awkward surface state. The natural result is for that conversation to die pretty quickly, especially after this is established as a relational pattern. People will have a hard time feeling close to me, thus causing me to wonder what's wrong with myself (again, the same pattern). This kind of relating takes great confidence and I believe it also is self-reinforcing in creating even more confidence.

It's time to practice a different way of relating, one that I believe will reap huge relational rewards for not only myself, but everyone else in relationship with me. I'm excited to get started on this practice! Share your thoughts on this in the comments below.