Conversations….mmmm, I love having them. But the art of conversation is not celebrated enough in our culture. And it is becoming ever more critical online as we struggle with tools that don’t communicate facial expressions or even intonation. So what can we do to bring forth conversation and nurture it?
Of course there are some simple obvious answers: ask questions and express gratitude. Come from a state of curiosity.
But how about receiving with grace? We have valued being independent or autonomous so highly that many of us have lost touch with the ability to receive with grace. Allow other people to feel good about their contribution. Don’t quickly close the social reciprocity contract–you know that sense that you have to return the favor? Don’t take it to be a sign that you are a slacker or a mooch! What a negative framing that is…although it does point to people who are not being gracious about receiving (or our jealousy of those that do receive with ease).
Keep in mind that people don’t see the world for what it is, they see it for what they are. Most people think about themselves, especially in our competitive culture. If you allow people to see themselves positively, they will see you positively.
I had a lovely friend who spoke about those in his social network in the most flattering terms. He said how brilliant and creative they were. And it made me feel like I must be pretty brilliant or creative to be included in his world, since that was clearly what he filtered for. And I had the sense that when he talked about me to others, he was saying amazing things about me (ones I might not even be able to believe about myself). Oh, was he ever attractive to spend time with!
What can you celebrate in others? Especially when they have given you something. Instead of returning the favor, do them a different sort of favor by saying very specifically what you see them having done for you (or for others), how that works for your needs and values, and how thankful you are for it. This is NOT a display of your weakness, in fact it shows your confidence and strength.
Allow it to create a flow in conversation toward common connection–shared celebration of shared values, other instances of gratitude or other things to be grateful for. Be patient in listening and clearly ask for more. I mean clearly as in “can you tell me more about that?” Or “What I hear you saying is ‘insert summary or key points‘ and I would love to know more about how you came to that/where you want to do with that.”
Receive with grace and enjoy your conversations flourishing–online and off.