Somehow everything about us all began with a conversation. Our parents met and talked and one thing led to another. Our job started with an interview and that led to days, weeks and months, maybe even years of what we spend the majority of our time doing. And our relationships are really only sustained via conversations. When I read these words from Eleanor Roosevelt I was reminded of my childhood and how I learned the ‘rules’ of conversation.
In interaction with my elders – aunts, uncles, grands, parents – I was instructed on how to communicate my thoughts and inputs into a form they could understand. I was encouraged to ask questions of them when I did not understand. We talked over meals, in the car, on vacations, even at the end of each day. These same skills then transferred into how I interacted with teachers, coaches, neighbors, church folk, and every other adult I encountered. All along the way I was engaged in conversations some of which were more productive than others. And when things went sideways I could come home and talk about it more to understand how to do it better next time.
I grew up mostly around boys. I have brothers and all male cousins, our neighbors were mostly boys and the girls who did live on our street were much older than me…so I learned how to converse with boys. Who eventually grew to be men, (well most of them!) I had a roommate in college who had the opposite experience. She was mostly around girls. When she hit the workforce and was in a predominantly male environment, she was not equipped to talk to men. She did not have the skills to communicate her ideas into a format men would understand, so she struggled. I didn’t realize my skills until she told me her story, and that is when I realized the power of conversations.
Whether we are an introvert or an extrovert, we learn by talking to people. We learn about them, how they think, what they need and what flips their switch. Sure we can observe and understand their behaviors, and yet to really know a person we must spend time talking to them in a manner they understand. Our communication style doesn’t always work for everyone, so we have to adapt in order to make sure our message is understood. That is the art of conversation, not making it about us making it about them. Tough to do if you have not taken the time to get to know them. And the way to get to know them, talk to them!
I agree with Eleanor here, it is a great loss to a child to grow up without conversation. It is a great loss for anyone to live without conversation. It is how our lives grow, our relationships survive, and how we learn to function in this world. So today let your goal be to have conversations – the easy ones, the tough ones, the uncomfortable ones, and the important ones. Life is easier, better and more fulfilling when we spend time in good conversations.