I have been floating on the surface of my interactions.
I have crafted the art of pleasantries, chitchat and small talk. I’ve perfected sarcasm and witty banter. I can have an entire conversation that carries no meaning, no depth and no purpose. Most shameful of all—I have participated in entire discussions where I haven’t really listened to a single word, but I can nod and smile with genuine recognition.
I am good at being fake.
I am not proud of this. I am tired of pretending. I am tired of talking about the weather when I don’t really care. I already know the gas prices and I don’t want to repeat the rehearsed and over-used version of what I do for a living or what I like to do for fun. I am not a victim of these conversations. I am the one who begins them this way.
I thought this was the role I must play in order to interact with others. I thought this was the conversation of life. If we stay on the surface, nobody gets hurt. If we speak without thought, or hear without listening, then we won’t risk connecting. This is how to play it safe.
I don’t want to play it safe.
So, how do we change it? We can’t walk around all day with a creepy look in our eye, saying, “How are you, really?” How can we change the conversation without stepping outside of common courtesy and personal space?
I believe it begins by listening.
I visit my grandmother weekly. Every week we talk about the weather, family, life, groceries and gas prices. Needless to say, I wasn’t enjoying these visits and I had the attitude to get in, get out and get on with my life. One day, Grace inspired me to listen. I listened to the banter, but instead of staying on the surface, I watched as she spoke. I observed her body language, absorbed the tone of her words and I felt the loneliness beneath them.
My heart broke as I found connection to her.
I had stepped into a place where we were the same. I could relate to her. I knew how she was feeling. In that moment I felt closer to her than ever before, because we connected on a level that lies beneath the surface. I found compassion, and through compassion I found courage and truth.
“Grandma, you are a strong woman; your spirit is radiant.”
This was not small talk, and it was perfectly appropriate. It was organic. It came up so naturally, as if the words were meant to float in the air at that time. It was easy because it was real. There was no acting, no rehearsal, and no lines. It was authentic and honest, and it set me free.
So for your next interaction, listen, observe, and feel.
You just might find a bit of yourself in someone else, and that is the greatest connection of all.
I am a devoted mama, wife, yogi, teacher and writer. I’m inspired by love, heartbreak, nature, music, movement and words. You can read more at www.emilyparkinsonperry.com and connect with me here on facebook or here on twitter. I would love to hear from you!
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan