Don’t Talk: Engage Conversations

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In junior high someone named me fog horn.

I know I shouldn't admit this. But its all about transparency and authenticity right?

I was loud; with a capital L. I've been an athlete most of my life and most of my school years I  walked away with the Most Inspirational award, or was it loudest sport-cheerleader?

Funny how things change, or NOT! Today about 30 some years later I found myself across the table from Jeff Shuey, a new friend, a veteran Techie, engineer, Microsoft Partner specialist. It's been hours since our conversation and yet the words, the conversation lingers in my mind.

 I love this about people, I love this about conversations.They linger because they MATTER!

Funny, I think when I was younger the reason I was so loud was I wanted to be heard, now when someone complains I'm too loud I think it's my hearing; it's going.

Today I strained to keep up with Jeff's conversation pace. At first I thought it might be that it was a rainy Kirkland morning and I had not consumed my usual 4-shot soy latte. Then well into our conversation Jeff admitted he was verbose. We both laughed. I totally understand having a lot to say and saying it loudly.

Our conversation then took a surprising turn and I shared what I had been learning over the past couple decades about conversations, relating and engaging others at that deep level where being known and coming to know occur.

I don't know exactly when it happened or how but somewhere along the way the last 30 some years I woke up to the fact that talking was not conversation. That telling was not engaging and that statements were far less powerful than questions.

Talking you see is not engaging. Words are not conversation. Statements are not relating.  I use to think that silence was meant to be filled with words; mine. NOT!  I thought that getting to know me was directly correlated to how many words I shared. Actually, I've learned its quite the opposite.

Engaging in conversations and being known is directly correlated to the amount of questions I ask, the intensity with which I listen and engage authentically. Conversation and knowing is a matter of intent and honoring of the 'other' as much as it is the courage to speak one's truth authentically and transparently.

Conversations unlike talking are a give and take; a genuine showing up of a person in mind, soul and body. I've been learning how to do this more effectively. I've been learning how to listen instead of always preparing to talk. I've also been learning how to really say what I mean, telling people the last 10%, my whole truth, being authentic and transparent as I engage.

 You see engaging with others and relationships are dependent on each person committing to both- giving and receiving; sharing and listening, asking and telling.

 I reminded Jeff that conversations are about being comfortable. If I were to rattle off my day's to  do list at lightening speed to him it's very likely I would lose rapport with him, he would feel uncomfortable, unimportant and perhaps retreat in his mind to a sandy beach never to return soul, body and mind to our conversation.

When we converse with others we are building rapport.  Rapport is developed through a sense of being known, similar and yes comfortable. Speaking too fast, too loud, too softly, in a strange technical vernacular or any other weird manner; all of which I have done, breaks rapport.

In my busy life I try to pre-frame  my conversations before I arrive. I intentionally  commit to learning about the person I am conversing, meeting with. I  want to engage others in questions about their lives and businesses. I listen to tone and pace and  work to accommodate my friends and business associates, I want them to be comfortable. I want to know them and to know them they must feel honored, listened to and safe.

Of course there are times I break rapport, sometimes intentionally other times because I am at heart a wild, passionate, energetic, curious soul!

I take engaging in  conversations and relationships serious. Because every person, every life matters. Everyone wants to and deserves to be heard and everyone wants to be missed. How can I miss someone if I never allowed myself to fully know them?

 I love practicing the art of being known and getting to know others and I encourage you to do the same and share your insights with me. I'd love to learn from you.

 Here are a few things I think about before I enter into a conversation…

What is my intent? Why am I here? What can I  do to create a comfortable conversation where I will encourage engaging and relating at the deepest level? What can I do to honor and listen and what can I do to participate, share and engage in a manner that communicates this time, this moment, this person matters?

I for one, want every person I meet to leave feeling valued, reminded they are an irreplaceable miracle, known, heard and will be missed.  I want people to feel understood, listened to and comfortable. I want to engage not talk at. I don't want to show up so in my own 'Pam" party that I talk over the life before me.  I want to ask more than I tell, I want to listen more than I talk and I want to be real, authentic and transparent so that if this is our last and final conversation I will have no regrets.

Today as I sat and listened, asked questions, mirrored body language and worked to engage my new friend I marveled at how the simple act of engaging in conversation is so life giving.

Don't talk- engage in conversations!

Pam Hoelzle

pamhoelzle @ comcast.net

Pamhoelzle on twitter

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