Thursday May 21 2009
There was a time when ‘showing up’ for a meeting, an appointment, or a family event left me thinking about being on time, what I must remember to bring, or what I should wear. Increasingly though, I have been thinking about how I ‘show up’ in conversation with the people I interact with. I am talking about conversations with my work colleagues, fellow churchgoers, friends, extended family members, my son, my wife, and even with my God. When I began to consider how I show up for others in conversation, I realized just how little attention I was giving to being responsible in my conversations.
I have come to realize that much of the way in which I show up in conversation has more to do with my very active ego than with intentional thought on my part. I do not consider myself an authority on the subject of Ego, but it seems to be a tireless worker. My ego is quick to form a conclusion about the other persons’ character, their mannerisms, attire, language and intellect (and pretty much anything) for my ready access. With little or no effort on my part, a conclusion just seems to appear from nowhere at all. Of course, with a conclusion comes the obvious next step …that of gathering evidence. This is an area where my ego and I have much in common. We like to be right! So somewhat surprisingly to me, evidence seems to be readily found to support my conclusions.
Do you ever find yourself showing up in a conversation with an almost immediate judgment or conclusion about a person you are meeting for the very first time? Or perhaps it is a co-worker you regularly don’t agree with and now you are meeting to discuss an item of mutual concern at work. Have you found that you enter the conversation with some conclusion, opinion (read “baggage”) about the other person before you both even engage in conversation? If so, you are not alone.
It has been my experience that when I show up in conversation with a pre-formed conclusion and look for evidence, I directly influence how the other person shows up. Consider how this might play out if I were showing up in conversation with an aging parent for whom I was providing some level of care. Perhaps I show up with a view that my mother is not interested in news of the day or goings on at work. With that already formed viewpoint, I begin a discussion by asking how she is doing and what she did today, and we spend some time catching up on some family news and reviewing this week’s doctors’ appointments. When our discussion is over, I leave for home. As is the case in most conversations, I note that we did not speak about current events, local news, or my work.
Now what would be possible in our conversation if I were to show up without a conclusion about what my mother is or isn’t interested in? Perhaps I might share a news highlight or an incident at work and ask for her thoughts on the matter. What would be possible in a conversation in which I related to my mother just like I related to any one of my friends about the happenings of the day? What if I were to show up in conversation with an expectation that my mother is willing not only to listen to all I have to share, but also to share her wisdom, experience, love and grace?
Imagine if we were to bring intention to all our conversations with those we care for. Powerful and intentional conversations in which we show up creating a space in which their opinions and views matter, in which they bring important contributions to each and every conversation, in which they feel appreciated for their wisdom and grace, and in which we are fully present in our listening. Could these enriching conversations lead to a renewed sense of contribution, purpose and possibility for those receiving care?
My next post will explore ways of BEING that might allow us to create a space of possibility in powerful conversations with those we love and care for.