Rebecca Still, Community Learning Network
I’ve been thinking about conversations lately. What happens when we have a conversation? What is the value of conversations? How does the conversation affect me? The person I’m conversing with?
Conversations happen all the time with family, friends, co-workers and new people we meet. They can be casual such as an offhand remark while standing in the checkout lane, or sharing how our day went with family. Casual conversations are often light hearted and focus on things more at the surface. We can have many casual conversations throughout the day.
Other conversations are more in depth and can be serious. We might explore new possibilities and ‘what ifs’, or talk about changes. They can spark raw emotions or delve deep into our feelings. They are longer than casual conversations and often, we need to come back to the same conversation to work ‘things’ out.
As I have thought about conversations, whether they are casual or deep, I see them as ways we connect with others and build relationships. Even in that casual conversation with someone you don’t know, a connection was still made. The next time you meet, you have that connection between the two of you and you can reconnect again. The more often you meet, that casual connection can deepen and grow. You start having deeper conversations and over time, you develop some type of relationship with that person. But it all started with a casual conversation.
But how do I turn that casual conversation into a deeper conversation? As I have pondered this I realize I do that by sharing stories. That’s what I now call sharing information about myself. I tell a story about something that happened to me. Then the person I shared my story with, shares their story. As we continue to share stories over time, we get to know each other and develop a relationship. Depending on how often we meet will determine how quickly we get to know each other.
But a key factor in building relationships through conversation is trust. I need to be honest in what I say and I need to actively listen to what the other person is saying. Along with that I need to respect what they are saying and especially what they are not saying. I need to be aware of the subtle cues of body language. These subtle cues guide me in my response and help me to be respectful of the other person.
When I am actively listening and paying attention to their subtle cues, then I can truly ‘hear’ their story. I can acknowledge the emotions they are feeling when telling their story and then act with compassion, kindness and understanding. This helps me to build that relationship of trust.
I love having conversations with others and the relationship we build through our conversations. I am always open to new conversations and the opportunity to build relationships through deeper conversations.
I invite you to think of the conversations you are having in your work. Are there ways you can share stories and actively listen to others? What ways do you use conversation to build relationships with co-workers, adult learners and others you come in contact with?
CLN Literacy Specialist
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