Let’s Do The Time Warp Again – challenges in the competition of conversation
I just spent an entire weekend with a group of men who all have two connections: 1) we are all fellow college alumni. 2) we all worked on staff at a particular dorm between the years 1980-1986. We are the Lynch (Hall) Mob.
On the flight home, I came across a quote that reminded me how uncanny it is that the universe can constantly provide inspiration for us while creating ways to share important moments and serve each other with examples of how we can be better with each other.
‘Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship, but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul.” — from The Nine favorite; Seneca.
This prompted me to ask: How and what is so important about friends and the connection to them today versus yesterday?
At the reunion, many of us are seeing each other for the first time since one or the other walked off campus all those many years ago. To reunite 30-plus years later, is an amazing experience because it brings with it the opportunity to see yesterday’s future today.
What I find amazing is that while we all want to know more, we tend to choose telling things and stories rather than asking each other questions and exploring lives with curiosity. Myself included. I is well into the weekend before I catch myself, as a student of and coach in conversation, realizing that I’m not learning as much as I can about people that, quite possibly, I will not see again in my life.
What is it that keeps us from approaching each other this way? These are smart, interesting people, with lives to reveal and share. With the desire for a witness to gauge their progress, their accomplishments, and all that has and is happening to them. The result is a competition for airspace.
Humans are a competitive bunch. It’s all part of the way we are wired. It is possible, though, to still be in the race and serve each other along the way. Here’s how I see us being that much better with each other:
- Let’s shift our SEND button when connecting to each other. Be more present with what we send over. Instead of ”What are you doing now?,” what about “What’s life like for you right now?”
- Push PAUSE. Landing questions, no matter what level, have no value if they’re hijacked by a barrage of follow-up questions before the other person can answer. A machine gun approach doesn’t let us process.
- Listen, yes, and listen some more. What stands out for you, captures your brain, heart and body with what you are hearing? Reach and respond from that perspective.
- Silence everyone! Sometimes the best way to ask a question is by just being quiet.
- Be brave. This is uncomfortable territory for us. We live in polite (some say not so much today) society and this can feel too personal. What? You’re friends for God’s sake, how much more personal can this engagement be?
I love these guys. We came from a time of innocence, ignorance (blissful that is) and arrogance, jockeying for position and grabbing each other along the way, demanding that we all keep up with each other as best we can. Some of the stories are well known and well worn, like a fave t-shirt, and others are new; begging to be heard and then cataloged in long-term memory, giving us a chance at enjoying them further and passing them on to others familiar with this mob.
The weekend was a fulfilling experience, those that showed were the ones who were supposed to be there. I am grateful for them and for me, that we spent the time, money and energy to connect and reconnect with each other again. There’s no right and wrong perspective here. No regrets to the moments other than spending a little more time with those who are further away from me demographically to honor their space in this wonderful event. Curiosity engaged gave me greater appreciation for this effort, and I can only imagine what it would’ve been like had we all approached it that way.
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