Vital Conversations

Vital Conversations

Two chaps having a vital conversation

I was keynoting on the Antimatter Principle at Agile Adria 2014 this week. As at all of the other conferences I have attended in the past year or so, I found myself feeling impatient with e.g. the hallway and dinner-table conversations, because I was feeling less connected with people than I would like. I also often feel that, amongst so many energised and experienced folks, we could be having great conversations of mutual exploration and import. Vital conversations – conversations full of energy, and life, and mutual joy. Yet we don’t seem to be able to make that happen.

At each conference, I’ve shared my feelings with one or two folks, without much in the way of ideas coming to mind.

This morning, I find an oh-so-simple idea has been staring me in the face, unrecognised, for months.

I’m speaking of this passage from an interview with Marshall Rosenberg:

SARAH: I was interested in an example you shared in one of your workshops about a group of teachers who were having a conversation that wasn’t feeding you spiritually.

MARSHALL: “Well, I was sitting around with a group of teachers who were all talking about what they did on vacation. Within ten minutes, my energy had dropped very low; I had no idea what people were feeling or wanting.

“In giraffe, we know it’s not being kind to the other person to smile and open your eyes wide to hide the fact that your head has gone dead. The person in front of you wants their words to enrich you, so when they aren’t, it’s helpful to be kind and stop them. Of course, in the jackal culture, this isn’t done.

“After listening awhile to the teachers, I screwed up my courage and said, “Excuse me, I’m impatient with the conversation because I’m not feeling as connected with you as I’d like to be. It would help me to know if you’re enjoying the conversation.” All nine people stopped talking and looked at me as if I had thrown a rat in the punch bowl.

“For about two minutes, I thought I’d die, but then I remembered to look at the feelings and needs being expressed through the silence. I said, “I guess you’re all angry with me, and you would have liked for me to have kept out of the conversation.”

“The moment I tumed my attention to what they were feeling and needing, I removed their power to demoralize me.

“However, the first person who spoke told me, “No, I’m not angry I was just thinking about what you were saying. I was bored with this conversation.” And he had been doing most of the talking! But this doesn’t surprise me. I have found that if I am bored, the person doing the talking is probably equally bored, which usually means we’re not talking from life; we’re acting out some socially-learned habits.

“Each one of the nine people then, expressed the same feelings I had – impatience, discouragement, lifelessness, inertia. Then one of the women asked, “Marshall, why do we do this? Why do we sit around and bore each other? We get together every week and do this!”

“I said, “Because we probably haven’t learned to take the risk that I just did, which is to pay attention to out vitality. Are we really getting what we want from life? Each moment is precious, so when our vitality is down, let’s do something about it and wake up.”

 

So, I now have a new avenue to pursue the next time I find myself feeling frustrated, impatient or disconnected. I’ll just have to remember to say something like:

“Excuse me, I’m impatient with this conversation because I’m not feeling as connected with you as I’d like to be. It would help me to know if you’re enjoying this conversation.”

Do you sometimes have the same feelings? How might this approach help you in similar circumstances? Could you find the courage to make such an interjection? How might you feel – and react – if someone else said something like this, to you?

- Bob

 

5 comments
  1. This reminds me of how our coffee-breaks at work is, i’ll have to make sure to take action the next time. :)

  2. Sometimes there are just folk who with their very presence seem to suck the energy, and sometimes oxygen out of a room. There are occasions that I look at the other folk and wonder “Is it me?”

  3. Thank you for this post, it rings very true to me.

    At the same time I agree with what Zsolt Fabok said to you on twitter that it is likely that if you tell somebody that you are impatient with the discussion you may hurt his/her feelings and therefore delivery and timing is probably crucial. And also the company matters. As I understand it, when Marshall made this bold insertion into the conversation he did so to a group of people he knew well. I can easily imagine myself saying to my friends that I am impatient with the conversation. But not to someone I hardly know at a conference.

  4. Another thing that came to mind when I read this post was this quote:

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    ― Maya Angelou

    Speaking your truth is all fine and well, the real challenge is to pick the right words at the right time.

  5. That reminds me of a conference call I was on. I had initiated the call, and invited four colleagues and potential associates to join. I was actually leading the discussion. But – at some point I just …lost interest. Completely. Next thing I knew, there was a break in conversation. Silence. I woke up and realized someone was waiting for me to say something. I just said:
    “I’m sorry – were you talking to me? I completely zoned out.”
    “I found that we were beating a dead horse – I lost focus.”
    “If I felt this way, were any of you [feeling similarly]?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,580 other followers

%d bloggers like this: