Thursday, December 05, 2013

Conversation Should Be Like That

We don’t care if you know everything.

We care if you can participate in deep, thoughtful conversations about anything.

That’s a completely different skill. An infinite game, if you will. In which you’re not playing to win, but playing to keep the game going. Where it’s less about intellectual firepower and more about curiosity and vulnerability and enthusiasm and patience and maybe even a little bit of wow I never thought about it that way.

Improv comedy has a similar model.

My wife and I spent a summer taking classes at a local theater company. Not only were they some of the funniest moments of our lives, but some of the healthiest communication tools we learned as a couple.

As our instructors told us, it’s not about being the funniest person on stage, constantly inventing punch lines to get a cheap laugh from the audience. It’s about saying yes and serving the scene. It’s about looking into someone’s eyes and feeling their reactions. It’s about responding honestly to people’s realities. And it’s about keeping the ball in play no matter what, fully committing to whatever rabbit hole you go down.

Conversation should be like that.

Songwriting has a similar model as well.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite books, Unintentional Music, a program for using openness and acceptance to get the most out of the creative process. The subject matter of the book mostly revolves around music, but there’s still a lot we can glean from an conversational standpoint.

As the author writes, focus on the music people do not intend to make. Align yourself with the flow of process. See disturbing or unwanted things as potentially meaningful. Stay open to what you are typically closed to. Rather than judging experiences, just be with what is. When something arises, let it come, and when something disappears, let it go. And learn to love whatever happens and trust that it will lead you to where you ultimately need to go.

Conversation should be like that.

And the best part is, you don’t need to be a know-it-all to make that kind of interaction happen.

If you want to participate in deep, thoughtful conversation about anything, it’s all in how you approach the exchange. It’s all about what you see when you see people.

Because when everyone is operating from pure intention and passionate attention, the rest of the exchange takes care of itself.