I’ve been easily enamoured by people for as long as I can remember.
I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been fascinated with stories and the part of people’s lives that I don’t get to normally see. Call it nosiness, call it curiosity; I’ve always been that kid with a lot of questions.
I learnt from a young age that curiosity and a good question can bring you immense knowledge, and it isn’t confined to the subject of discussion.
A great conversation acts like a ripple effect; one motion can generate a seemingly endless amount of wisdom and it radiates from the epicentre of a story.
Conversations are the stuff that life is made out of.
One of my core beliefs is that the quality of your existence depends heavily on the quality of the conversations you are having — with yourself and with others. One must have a sense of curiosity for life and its workings; and one must be brave enough to exercise it. The alternative is a sad way to live.
This belief has propelled me to put a little more thought and care into my relationships and it has given me more than I could ask for. It is also what got me started on this website in the first place.
The case for why we need to have better conversations.
Many of the reasons behind tensions and conflict is the lack of understanding. An argument could quickly ensue when, as if out of nowhere, a spouse is acting cold. A cold war could start when you realise that a friend isn’t as responsive as before.
The frustration of not knowing, is the reason behind much of our turmoil in life.
But imagine: If we were armed with both courage and tact to prod into the “whys” of certain behaviours or observations, we could learn so much more about the operating systems of others — and naturally, our own.
When we acquire knowledge on how we and our loved ones interact with the world, understand the triggers that exists in all of us, and the context to why we feel the things we feel, we do life a little better.
What this may look like: We end up arguing less with our spouse when we understand that at one point in their lives, they only had themselves to rely on; and when they married us, there was a hope and expectation that there would be someone to shoulder the everyday burdens of life with.
When we don’t help out with the house chores like we said we would, disappointment is inevitable — and that would explain why they were cold to us that one Friday night, when we promised to come home early to help with nursery; but instead, stumbled home slightly drunk and adamant to go to bed as quickly as possible.
We must first seek to understand. Many people get it wrong by doing the opposite. They want to be understood first, before attempting to understand. But like a dance, great conversations are about falling in step with one another and it’s simply about taking turns.
A good conversation is reciprocity mastered.
When we learn to work with what somebody has offered us, we all walk away more tools and resources to build an accurate picture of the other person, allowing us to understand each other in greater measure after each interaction.
And isn’t that what we all want; to be seen, accepted — and understood?
A good conversation can unearth important information that we can use to build ourselves — and others — up.
When we dare to dig deeper beyond what is palatable or safe, we end up discovering things that are, more often than not, pleasant surprises. A good conversation can tell you things that you didn’t know you wanted — or needed — to hear.
Some good conversations I’ve had over the past years have taught me a lot of the values that I’ve come to live by today. I was privileged to have a great manager in my previous job. Our conversations have cemented in me a spirit of bravery and enthusiasm that I carry to this day.
This manager always made time for conversation. In many of those interactions, he would remind me of what he saw in me; that it would be waste if I allowed my self-doubt and fear of failure to stop me from achieving great things.
He taught me to be more concerned with doing than dreaming up scenarios, and he was a big believer of grabbing opportunities when they came.
Learning all of this has allowed me to build my own confidence. As a newly minted manager myself, I now intentionally set aside time for 1:1s with my current hire.
The philosophy is simple: Just like how I need(ed) someone else to point out my blindspots and to tell me that I’m doing great, other people need to hear the same things too.
A good conversation allows us to borrow someone else’s experience to expand our worldview.
“If only someone had told me…”
Ever had one of those moments where you wished somebody warned you about something?
There are many moments in life where we wish we could skip over some parts; we wished that someone would have just told us earlier about that pothole, before falling face flat.
Conversations — and ones done well — help us to borrow someone else’s experience to avoid making similar mistakes in our lives. And to think that we all default to ignoring our parents’ incessant and unsolicited advice: how truly unwise!
Our parents shamelessly dish out life-advice at us precisely because of this reason: they don’t want us making the same mistakes they did. They would rather our temporary annoyance and displeasure than see us experience pain that could have been avoided.
When we respectfully enquire of another the ways in which they have failed miserably, we make room for each others’ humanity in a single interaction. We get to appreciate the fullness of life; we can choose to not only bask in the glory of it, but to remind ourselves of the hard-to-swallow pills of life. Good conversations add new dimensions to our worldview, allowing us to navigate life with more ease.
The more conversations we have, the more warning signs our minds compute for us throughout our life; acting as signals, warning us of impending and potential danger.
When we learn how to humbly navigate the experiences of others and see it through their eyes, that’s when our own life expands beyond our own. When our conversations make space for the experiences of others and when we allow ourselves to step into their shoes for those few precious minutes, we acquire wisdom with the pain that comes along with it.
I’ve avoided multiple career and relationship mistakes; the sheer amount of conversations I’ve had around those topics have allowed me to collect a library of notes and wisdom from those around me. I can imagine that they’ve saved me a ton of heartache.
We need to have better conversations because it’s required of us. We can’t simply go through life, ignorant of the wealth of knowledge, and the many spectrums between grief and joy; all so easily accessible to us.
Dear reader, I hope you squeeze life dry of its goodness (and the not-so-good too!) by making yourself available for more conversations. I hope you get to experience the heart-expanding joys of learning something new about an acquaintance, a beloved, and a stranger. I hope that in your quest for better conversations, you understand yourself and those around you better.
When you put in the work to understand yourself, you will undoubtedly learn the language to educate those around you on the most important things: how to love you when you’re hardly tolerable, when you’re in need of affection, and when you’re wildly happy.
Have a better conversation with someone today. They probably need it too.