In today’s busy society, I believe that we have mastered the skill of what I like to call ‘surface conversations’.
A surface-level conversation is when we ask someone a question that we don’t really care to hear the answer to, or ask a quick question that we know will get a high-level response. This keeps us from having to pay attention or get too emotionally invested. Things like, ‘How was your weekend?’ or ‘How is your day going?’ Typically, the response is quick, generalized, and devoid of anything terribly real.
Sometimes the question is reciprocated and, in turn, we give another quick, generalized answer. That’s it. That’s often where the conversation ends and you both go along your merry way.
Recently, I have had the rare opportunity to go deeper in conversations with a few people; I can’t tell you how fulfilling it has been. As I take a step back, I realize I’ve been so ‘busy’ with my business and all of the things happening in my personal life, I’ve neglected opportunities to really open up or allow others around me to do the same.
Now, I’m not saying we should all run around sharing our drama or everything that crosses our mind with the world; that would be obnoxious and potentially very off-putting to those around us. However, I am advocating that all of us take the time to have real conversations about what is really going on in our lives with those around us.
Instead of just asking someone how their weekend was as you rush down the hallway and hardly hear their 1-word answer, stop. Take just a minute and ask them follow-up questions after they respond. Go just a little deeper into the conversation, get to know the other person a little better. On the flip side, when they ask you how your weekend was, instead of just saying it was ‘great,’ tell them a little (not too much) about the dinner you had with your family or the freezing Rockies opening day game you attended. It doesn’t have to be a 20-minute conversation, 3-5 minutes is enough to get past the surface-level and to start building a stronger relationship.
When you take the time to do this, you will be surprised at how much more connected you feel with everyone around you! And, the icing on the cake is that when you take the time to really listen in a conversation, it will give you the opportunity to have a follow-up conversation in the future. If someone mentioned their kids first soccer game, the next time you see them you can ask how their kids’ soccer season is going or if they have scored any goals. They will be shocked that you remembered something about their life, making them want to invest in getting to know you better.
Don’t know how to start? Start small. If there is someone that you really want to get to know but you realize your conversations are all the ‘surface’ type, start by making an effort to ask them one question and one follow up questions each time you interact with them.
It could be as simple as:
You: “How was your weekend?”
Them: “Great, really loved the sunshine!”
You: “I agree! Did you get outside and do anything fun?”
Them: “Yes we actually went for a family bike ride with all three of our kids, it was an adventure for sure. How about you?”
You: “Nice! We worked in our garden, which I love doing. Have a great Monday!”
Even that short interaction is enough to start building a deeper relationship with. You learned something about them, they learned something about you. Next time you interact you have details that you have something more specific to ask them about. You will be surprised at how quickly people open up when you are interested in them and how much more likely they are to reciprocate and ask you deeper questions.
As I’ve challenged myself to have more than just surface-level conversations, I have noticed that my business and personal relationships have improved dramatically. It isn’t that I didn’t want to get to know people before, it is just that I am now making a conscious effort not to let ‘busy’ get in my way and to instead go beyond the surface, be more real, and be genuinely interested in those I interact with. I challenge you to join me.