If someone asked you what the purpose of conversation was—what would you answer. Mine would be connection.
Humans are blessed with language, a powerful tool that enables us to approach another human and discover what they’re about. The ancient Tower of Babel story is poignant and makes an important point: when humans don’t share a language, understanding is absent, fear sets in, opposition begins and can rule. Instead of forging bonds, humans become enemies.
Luckily, we’re way past those early beginnings of communication, but it doesn’t hurt to stop and consider how we relate to strangers, people we work with, and even our closest friends and relatives.
THE QUEEN OF TALK
In her latest book, The Path Made Clear, Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose, Oprah Winfrey reminds us of the importance of communication. Growing up black in segregated Mississippi must have made many conversations a struggle. But from within came her ability to know herself, to express her needs and thus the Queen of conversation and TALK SHOWS gives us a new book, a testament to communication. Winfrey presents her ideas through what she labels adages:
The Whispers: Your life is always speaking to you.
The Clouds: For every dream there is automatically going to be resistance.
She also relates that even she, someone used to public speaking, experienced fear when asked to give Harvard’s commencement address. Her OWN television station was not doing well and she had to ask herself: “What can I teach about success when I’ve stopped succeeding?” Her answer—push through fear, show up for the address, use your voice. TALK.
SPEECH IS POWER
Having our first child and watching her learn how to talk provided us with amazing parenting moments. But it also underlined the power of speech. After all, speech in many ways becomes our ability to control our environment. My husband and I were amazed when our first child, Carrie, who couldn’t have been more than two, found that power and would approach us and others saying, “Let’s talk.” The more she did that, the more she discovered the value of conversation and connection. After all, a two-year-old wants to control her world and Carrie was really good at it. “I say no to beans.”
SO HOW ARE WE USING THIS POWER?
Are we really listening to the needy friend, the bragging acquaintance, the lonely relative? Each one has needs. Are we skilled enough to fill that need? Sometimes? Always? My personal answer would be, not always. When someone is out and out bragging, I go quiet. When someone is very needy, I parse my words, try to help, but never want to promise the moon. When sitting with a lonely relative or friend, I listen. There are times we all need an audience. Being a good listener is like giving a gift. It’s when we relinquish the power of our speech and give it over to someone else. WE TRULY HEAR THEM.
TO ANSWER OR NOT TO ANSWER
We’ve all had days when the phone rings or dings and we don’t want to engage, would prefer that the caller leave a message. We’re human. Sometimes we don’t want to be ON. But often we do. That’s the drug of connection, and often the drug of approbation. We love it when someone “loves” us back.
But the other side of that is loneliness. To cure it, conversation is important, meaningful—it’s so HUMAN. You can say goodbye to a person you’ve talked to feeling uplifted but also so low your day is ruined. AGAIN, that’s reality. Someone hurts. We hurt. Someone feels joy—their sharing that joy can be contagious.
THERE IS ALWAYS STORY
We’ve all experienced the fear of engaging in conversation. Reasons? Shyness. Uncertainty. Guilt. Anger. Or infatuation that works against openness and calm. “Breaking the ice” can loom, become a task so difficult that we yearn to walk away. But more often the opportunity for connection is positive and we figure out ways to hang in there; breakthroughs are rewarding.
CREATIVITY IN CONVERSATION “I’m a Ballerina”
A friend once told me that at a typical holiday party she had to attend with her husband, predictably, he disappeared, left her to wander through the crowd. She finally engaged with a man she had never met. When they began a CONVERSATION and he asked her what she did in her life, she found herself answering, “I’m a ballerina.”
“It just came out,” she told me. “And why not. I knew no one and they didn’t know me. So, I decided to have some fun, to slip into another life.”
She knew enough about ballet to create a background for herself, but was careful not to create something so BIG that she would trip herself up. He found her fascinating and she enjoyed the charade. She made a connection. But it was innocent.
TAKING THIS TALENT TOO FAR…
If you are skilled in conversing, protect that gift, but use it honestly. Elizabeth Holmes, heroine or jailbird, told her father when she was a child, that she wanted to “invent something new, something that no one had previously believed possible.” Ms. Holmes is now the creator of one of the biggest scams in recent history. A con artist to the max, Holmes convinced investors and scientists that she had created a way to diagnose disease using only a drop of blood that’s been inserted into a high tech machine that she had invented. I read about it. I believed it and Holmes in conversation with investors was able to con them and get them to believe her too. She made a connection.
But Mary McNamara reports in the LA times, that while Holmes was using CONVERSATION to con investors, John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal started to dig. Maybe he would have believed that my friend was a ballerina, but he did not believe that a young woman who had dropped out of college after two semesters had the ability to magically change the medical industry. His research took Holmes down and now nothing she can create in conversation will keep her from paying for her lies.
DOES CONVERSATION COME TO YOU EASILY?
DO YOU ENJOY MEETING AND ENGAGING WITH NEW PEOPLE? LET’S TALK.
PHOTO CREDIT: Parents Want to Know 101