Have you ever been so engrossed in an exchange that you lost all sense of time and your surroundings?
I have. Manier times than I care to count.
And now that I think about my best conversations, the reason is quite simple why I enjoyed them as I did. I deployed care and genuine curiosity.
Let me explain.
When you care about what someone else has to say, it makes a world of difference. It goes back to our hardwired and somewhat magical ability of being able to suss out another person’s true feelings, thoughts and attitude. I can instinctively tell when you are really listening to me or when you are pretending to be interested.
So, this means when you truly are curious about another person, they will feel it and that, that builds a far stronger connection which words alone – however eloquent and perhaps, flattering, they may be – cannot do.
To further my point, I want to delve into the now (often) useless practice of job interviews. I am not sure whether you’ve experienced this or it is just unfortunate me who keeps meeting people who could not be bothered by deeply knowing me when we engage in conversation in boardrooms.
Anyway, this is my stance . . .
When I send in my résumé, a little write up about me in the email body and then conclude in the signature with a link to my blog site, YouTube channel and Facebook page, I expect you (as the interviewer) to scour those sources for bits about me, my work, the person I am, et cetera.
And this is where care and curiosity comes into play.
Oftentimes, I find myself being asked really useless questions such as, “Tell us about yourself?”
The reason I hate that thoughtless question is simple. I have provided information about me before the meeting. And the online platforms I use which, in all honesty, carry boatloads of insight about my personality, intelligence, past life experiences, level of skill, my worldview and such. So I don’t expect to be asked about what an interviewer ought to know when we sit down.
I feel that a lack of care and curiosity are the root causes to many boring (job) interviews and other sort of conversations. When I look forward to meeting someone new and want to create a memorable experience, I look them up – when they have a blog, even better! I gather what they love talking about; the people they associate with; things they’ve been through; music they jam to; books they’ve read; their fears, hopes, deepest desires; why they do the work they do; why they hold the views that they espouse.
When we finally meet and talk, I know, to some degree, the person sitting across me. This serves as a solid conversational foundation from which to begin and needless to say, saves us from engaging in thoughtless chatter to merely avoid silence.
So, I suppose this is a note for people who are often entrusted to conduct job interviews, those who work in communications, those who pride themselves over attending (business) networking functions, “productive” gatherings and other folk who just enjoy talking to other people.
What most people have not come to fully appreciate is that online platforms often provide an ample window into another person’s mind and heart. (And in the case where you talk to them in person, the things they say and how they say them provide some insight into their soul. You just need to pay attention.)
The reason many people are not willing to deploy care and be curious in a way that touches another person is because it is a difficult thing to do. It is emotionally and mentally taxing.
But what’s the alternative?
Personally, I see no other way to engage with people. Except to be generous with my attention and seek to delight the next person when I talk to them; creating unforgettable moments.
So, although strenuous at times, it is very rewarding.
And although a “Hey! So what do you do?” is a safe way to open up. I prefer a “Hey! So, if I may? What are you passionate about?” The latter will often light up another person’s eyes and have them pour out their heart into the conversation. They might end up telling you the reasons they are not pursuing their passion and opted for the route they are on.
Substantive and meaningful conversations that transform people.
Part of the reason I felt I ought to wax writerly about this is because when I attend interviews, I am rendered speechless by the lack of effort from the other side. They rely on the “tried-and-tested” questions their grandparents used yesteryear. The experience then turns into a classical inter-view (a dry and robotic question-and-answer), never a conversation.
Another reason is, I have always loved and enjoyed talking to people. I did it for years, this being happily engrossed in the art of conversation. Until I started noticing the people I spoke to become attached to me or our conversations. And some helped a lot by providing honest feedback of why they felt that way; I was often told that after every chat with me, they feel better, reinvigorated, ready to face the world again.
In some instances, a person would simply feel at ease with me and then trust deeply. (That’s often a foreign concept to them because they might’ve been hurt senseless in the past.)
So it continued to occur that I would happen upon people who were tattered emotionally, we’d talk – let’s say, I take them apart – and in no time, build them back together again. I started seeing a pattern of this, and, it happened without much effort from my end.
I then traced this ability, with the help from my brother, back to my father.
Dad was an unsung genius!
He had a special way with people; he could relate with every person he came across. He also was able to pick up a person from the doldrums.
He was an adept conversationalist.
He was special. I woke up to some of his greatness when he had passed on already. I was looking at his life retrospectively, trying to understand myself, things I am able to do, through him.
A lot of things started making sense. It was exciting and frightening at the same time.
Coming to think of it, it’s a big deal that I uncovered and made complete sense of the intangible gifts bestowed upon me. Infinitely interesting stuff I tell ya!
I have figured that I care easily. I am naturally curious, especially about people.
But for other people, they might have to learn that behaviour.
And my input on that is simply this: start learning the ability to delve into another person’s mind, heart and soul – even perhaps by simply listening to them. (You’ll be surprised at the immense power of intently listening, totally present in the moment, when another person speaks to you.)
I will confess this much to you . . .
It is such an exhilarating feeling to be so engrossed in a conversation that you lose all sense of time and your surroundings. And when you are able to help create those experiences, you become memorable and of emotional value.