It has taken me the greater part of 5 years to understand what it is about talking to people that causes me anxiety. The truth is, I LOVE talking to people. I love getting to know that old man in the park who walks his dogs along the pebbled creek. I love catching eyes with strangers and smiling hello, nodding a quiet understanding of just how powerful that one smile is. I love the anticipation of connecting with a reader via Skype for the very first time.
And yet, small chat scares the hell out of me. What do you do for work? What do you like to do for fun? What’s your favorite sports team? Any question that avoids the thing we really WANT to talk about but can’t – who we truly are – seems to give me the most anxiety. At the deepest level, we want to share our story, to be heard, to be understood. Why aren’t we asking more questions that get us to that point?
Truth is, it doesn’t matter to me what you do for a living. That you do it well is all that matters. It doesn’t matter what you like to do for fun. Tell me what those activities do for your soul. It doesn’t matter what sports teams you enjoy. Tell me that you’ve grown up with sports since you were young and how that has brought you closer to parents and friends.
Go deeper than what can be seen, and I guarantee people will listen. They may not remember what department you work in and the million things you do, but I bet they will recall the look on your face when you talk about the years of hard work and struggle that got you to where you are today.
I can recall a conversation two weeks ago with a man named Isaac. He works at the local bookstore where I write and study — One morning he kindly asked what I was writing about that day, and I replied, “Spirituality.” He didn’t understand and asked me to go deeper in my explanation. Feeling unsure of myself, I told him I believe that each opportunity we have with one another is a chance to know God. I said hesitantly, “If I feel anything at all, it’s that God is here Now. In everything, the earth, the animals, the people. In me. In you. What do you think, Isaac? Are you spiritual or religious at all?” His eyes widened, his cheeks turned pink, and we chatted for 30 minutes longer. He dared to listen. I dared to be heard. I’ll never forget that feeling. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he shared his truth with me.
Tell me something that makes you uncomfortable, and I’ll tell you what it means to be human. We all share these powerful feelings: Doubt, hopefulness, fear, shame, guilt, joy, happiness. But instead we choose to talk about what we do. Where we traveled. What we built. What we saw. Who we met. We apply our pretty masks and put on a show for the world. Look at your social media accounts and all the edited photos you took in Mexico that you posted. Listen to the conversation you have with your book club friends about how well your kids are doing in college and how your husband just made tenure. I am just as guilty of it too, but you guys – WHY AREN’T WE TALKING ABOUT ANYTHNG ELSE?! Why do we feel so compelled to say what is ‘good’ all the time?
This is why small chat gives me anxiety. It feels inauthentic. I want to go deeper.
This is not to say that we should all go around to one another spewing our woes and heavy thoughts, no, that would be exhausting. What I’m wondering is how can we go deeper in the way we connect with one another?
This is usually the moment I give a word of advice to guide you today. But I challenge you to think of ways you can go deeper with those around you. At work, at home, in new places.
I almost wrote – How can we go deeper in the way we connect with one another without encountering uncomfortable feelings? And then I had to laugh…. We simply cannot connect deeply without uncovering uncomfortable feelings along the way. That is where the real work begins.
So my challenge to you today is to break out of your comfortable conversations. Get to that point where your cheeks blush and your heart beats faster. Dare to say a little more, anything at all! Say something that is meaningful to you, and I guarantee that those who listen will feel you deeply.
Dare to be heard.
Your soul will thank you.
Light and love,