During every get-together and event this month, can you slow down and pay attention? Can you remain in the moment and surrender to it?
There are two things I know for sure at this time of year:
- I always wear a layer of wool somewhere on my body.
- I fail at the art of small talk.
This is the time of year where we see casual acquaintances and family that we don’t see as frequently. My husband excels at #2. In past years, you might have seen him excuse himself from conversations to come to my rescue after seeing my awkward smile and my sweaty palms making prints on a tightly clutched wine glass across a crowded room. After about 30 seconds into any small talk, I tend to blurt out something that is a little too honest or slightly offensive. And then I flash the awkward smile to feign sarcastic humour.
For the past two weekends I have attended 13 events/gatherings/celebrations/get-togethers. There are more to come for the rest of the weekends (and some weeknights) in December. After decades of trying to master the art of small talk, I finally decided to give up small talk all together. I no longer ask the expected laundry list of questions. I no longer listen and nod my head endlessly, dreading answering questions about what I do and how the kids are. I no longer hide behind a pristine surface of light and shallow topics.
Today I jump in and open up. If you have talked to me in the past year, chances are we probably went a little deeper than you would normally expect when talking to someone you barely know or someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile. I might have cried. You might have cried. We would have admitted things honestly with sincerity and gentleness. And we probably hugged at the end of it. This year I broke the record for the most intimate and deeply connected conversations I have had in my life. I sat in circles and shared my secret fears and challenges. I wrote here with my heart fully hand-stitched on this sleeve of mine.
As long as I make room during the week for silence and solitude, I can make room for all of these events/gatherings/celebrations/get-togethers and all of the conversations that accompany them.
Each conversation presents a mystery for me. What am I going to learn about myself? How can I see this person as the same as me? Can I have compassion and empathy even if we disagree or live different lifestyles? What stories can I share that may help or offer support? Instead of getting overwhelmed with all of the social situations coming up, can you approach these events as a way to make authentic connections and to strengthen relationships? Can you sit and listen without an agenda other than to be interested in whatever this person has to say? Can you ask a thoughtful question that can enrich the conversation and make you both stop and reflect long enough to create a spark of understanding? With these intentions, even the briefest and simplest conversations can feel worthwhile and effortless.
Can you turn small talk into BIG listening during the holidays?