My French Connection

Passenger is sitting on the back seat of the car and using smart phone app to rate a driver. Taxi or modern peer to peer ridesharing concept

On a recent business trip, I did not rent a car and instead used a popular rideshare app to get me from point A to point B.  So, so what Joe? We all do it. Well, something you may not know is that I’ve been studying French for three years, with a goal to be fluent before I leave the planet.  So the universe showed up for me and gave me a French (a Parisian!) speaking driver for my ride from the airport!  

I was really excited to hear her accent and ask her in French where she was from.  She asked me if I spoke French (C’est Vrai!) and then we continued to speak in her native language for about 30 miles.  I must say that I was totally energized by this exchange and my driver, Stephanie, was too. She had a chance to speak her native tongue and was extremely patient with me as I stayed in my role: French-speaking learner.  In the end, I was able to be coherent, continue the conversation in a logical progression, and engage another human being from a completely different perspective.  

So where is this going?  It’s about connection. Conversation and connection unfortunately can be mutually exclusive. Think about all the times you have a conversation with someone and it’s so transactional that it becomes the most mechanical of exchanges.  Think about the last conversation where true connection was achieved. Do you think it made a difference? How did it affect you at that moment? A smile on your face?  A spring in your step? A selfie high five? Yes, all of the above.

Learning a language really requires focus.  Your vocabulary, your accent, your listening skills are all amped way up so that you can actually keep up.  Connection is a language. It’s an art to really listen to the other, your conversational partner, asking questions and offering confirmations that say along the way: ‘I hear you’.  And, I may not agree with you, and I really hear and understand you.  

Three perspectives of connection as a language – 

Empathy  – very simply, it’s putting yourself in their shoes.  What’s happening now and what’s happening behind this exchange?  

Focus – and what I mean by that is to focus on the person, not the thing.  It’s never really about the thing being discussed. Your conversation partner wants to be noticed and understood.

Summary – checking in to see if what you’re hearing is what they’re saying.  Humans love to be recognized as being recognized.

Like learning any language, there are peaks and valleys in that learning journey.  When the learning seems futile, it’s called the Dip. Sometimes we feel like we can connect like crazy, and at other times, we get lazy, or tired, or just aren’t paying attention to our conversation partner.  Which feels better? You know the answer. This perspective takes practice and requires intention. Il faut que nous fassions des connexions tous les jours, sinon, il ne s’agit que de parler.

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