A Deeply Satisfying Conversation

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A Dinner to remember

I had the most delicious, three-hour dinner this week with my great friend, L.  The food was fine, but when I say “delicious,” I’m thinking about the conversation. Afterwards, I went home, sank into my favorite chair, closed my eyes, replayed the “tape” in my mind, and basked in the deep sense of satisfaction, connection and gratitude that I felt.

What can equal the joy of a long, slow, deep conversation with a dear friend?  I consider myself so fortunate to have friends with whom I can have such an experience. I found myself ruminating on how I’d define the ingredients of what I refer to as a “Mindful Conversation.” Different, no doubt, for different people, but here’s what they are for me. I’d love to hear from others. What would you add or change?

Ingredients for a Mindful Conversation

  1. First, for me, is talking about what matters to each of us. That may be personal, or political, technical or artistic,  philosophical or mundane or whatever. I want to talk about the real stuff. Only my heart – and yours – can define what that is.
  2. If #1 is the what, then #2 must be the how. I want to feel that I’ve been heard. That I’ve been in conversation with someone who knows how to listen, and who cares enough to want to understand my point of view, whether or not we agree. I call it “deep listening.” Listening with the ears of the heart, as St. Benedict put it.
  3. A sense of balance, equality in speaking and listening. Some people won’t let you get a word in, unless you fight for it. I quickly tire of these, and drop out of the conversation myself. Others seem afraid to reveal anything of who they are. I enjoy listening. I also enjoy speaking. I love the dance of conversation, passing the lead back and forth, surrender, being in the flow, not your flow, not my flow, but our flow. 1 + 1 = 3. We don’t know where the conversation is or should be going. It’s an improvisation, and we trust the process.
  4. Emotion. Participating in a  conversation that leaves out feelings is like eating a delicious dinner without a sense of taste. I want to hear the feeling in your voice. I want to be with people who are not afraid to talk about their feelings. I want to share where and when and how I’m excited or fearful or proud or humbled. Without sharing feelings, there can be only the most tenuous sense of connection.
  5. Authenticity. Without this one, it’s a waste of time. Never with L, but too frequently, I sense that my conversation partner is trying to impress or defend, or show off or cover up. Being willing to be real, willing to be vulnerable is essential. Authenticity is tied so closely to emotion. You can’t be vulnerable without showing emotion, and if you show emotion, can vulnerability be far behind? Vulnerability is the most direct path to connection, and that’s what I’m in this for.

How about you?

So that’s my short list. I could go on, but I won’t.

Not all my conversations are like a 3 hr dinner with L, but I love it when these five elements are so clearly present. I hope you’ll share your recipe for a satisfying conversation. In future blogs, we’ll talk about what gets in the way, but for now, it feels deeply satisfying  to me to bask in the joy of connection.

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