While studying for my exams, it took every ounce of strength to NOT write a blog post. I was so inspired with different ideas to share with you. Now that I’m free, I have “writers block.” Really, brain? Seriously? Is this how you are going to be?
Nevertheless, I am powering through, inspired by conversations I had yesterday.
I haven’t had a phone for the last week or so (it’s broken). Not a very long time, but it felt like I was missing a limb. I kept reaching for it for no reason other than compulsiveness. But addiction to technology is a topic for another post. Today, what was more important is what it made me realize about connecting with people.
One thing I do miss about having a phone is being able to listen to music while I walk anywhere. And I walk a lot, so something definitely felt like it was missing. But strangely, not listening to music while I waited for the bus allowed me to be more open to life. I enjoyed listening to the other sounds. I especially loved watching the interaction between a lady at the bus stop and a elderly gentleman as he walked down the street.
She said “Hello, how are you? Are you well?” He stopped for conversation, smiled; said he was feeling quite fine, and just going for a walk. She then asked “Do you have someone to make you dinner in the evenings?” he said yes, he has help at home, they wished each other well – God bless you, Merry christmas, and ended their conversation.
It was the perfect display of Irish hospitality and it warmed my heart.
I realized that sometimes when I stand there with music playing in my ears, tangled up in my own thoughts, there is so much I miss. So many special, interesting, and fun moments. I also think it makes me unapproachable, whether that’s intentional or not. I’m locked up in my own world, while real life is happening around me. No one really wants to disturb someone in their own world, to politely pull them out of their thick, gooey thoughts and musical soundtracks, ask a quick, urgent question, get a brief semi-informative answer, and then let them put their earphones back in and attend to their candy crush or facebook messages.
I had conversations with 5 strangers yesterday. It was the most strange but wonderful thing. And the best part of it was that each one of those conversations was deeper than small talk (which I am notoriously bad at.) We talked about life, meditation, what makes them happy, who they want to become, past aches, relationships and it happened so naturally. Later that evening, I sat next to two street performers, singing, playing the guitar, drumming. I listened to their music and enjoyed it so much! After they finished a song, I clapped for them, and then the whole row of people sitting beside me joined in too. It was really nice! I applauded all of their songs, and even though I wasn’t talking to them, nor to anyone sitting beside me, I felt connected with them all.
This made me understand that I want this. I want this deeper connection, with people, with life.
Asking better questions – Going deeper
A good question can unlock something in a person.
An empty question can close a person up.
“Hey how are you?”
“Good thanks, you?”
“That’s good. I’m fine, thanks for asking! “
Something about this exchange unconsciously closes me down bit. Of course I am not implying that this exchange is evil or negative in anyway, it’s just so…meh.
“How are you?” has almost become equal to “hello” – just a pleasant way to begin a conversation. On the one hand it does give the person an opportunity to talk about anything they want to talk about, but rarely does that actually happen.
When I want a deeper interaction with a person, I find that these questions work well:
Asking a person how they feel about something that has happened/their day
Asking about something specific that is going on in their life
Asking them what they are working on right now
Asking what they are most looking forward to
Asking them what they are finding difficult at the moment
I know that life can get complicated. And just because I ask a question, it doesn’t automatically give me the right to an answer. Sometimes they can’t come up with much of answer at all, because
a. It’s more personal than they feel comfortable sharing with me
b. They haven’t thought about it before
c. They’ve thought about it but haven’t found the vocabulary to express feelings about certain aspects of life.
I honour all these reasons. Even still, these questions unlock a person. And the next time you meet them, they might be more open, or you’ve done a beautiful thing by inviting a new question that they have never asked themselves, that they can now contemplate in the privacy of their own thoughts.
Taking a moment to really see a person. To feel their beauty and grace. To appreciate the gift they bring to your life. Take a moment to ask yourself “what gift does this person bring here, and to my life?” and share it with them. They might really need to hear it.
There have been a few of times in my life where someone shared their appreciation of a gift they saw within me, at a time when I was feeling so empty. It meant so much to me for them to acknowledge something in me that I felt was missing. There is incredible power in that.
Always look for a gift.
Share your appreciation.
Share a genuine compliment.
“A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet”
I later talked to that lady at the bus stop, who seemed to have similar conversations with many people who walked by. I told her I admired the way she connects with people. I asked her if she knew the elderly man she talked to before, and she said no, but she often sees him around town.
I truly admired the way she saw everyone around her as a friend already. Even the way she spoke to me, was so comforting, warm and casual – like we already knew each other on some level.
And isn’t that so true? That we already know each other on some level? That we come from the same sacred energy, we are all experiencing the richness and fullness of human life. We don’t need to be formal and distant, we can be comfortable and casual. We are brothers and sisters. We are here for each other. I am here for you.
All my love to all of you,