After the clock had struck 12 and I’d kissed as many people (on the cheek) as I could, I turned to my Good Friend and asked: what are your New Year’s resolutions?
He shared this and that and a few other things and then a little pearl, and something which makes him quite fabulous: to get better at talking with people.
I realise this is well and truly old news now, anything concerning New Year’s Eve, but what he said has stayed with me. And I’ve been lax on typing with you of late and figure this is better than what I haven’t been producing.
I’ve pondered his comments of late, spurred by a number of situations, and come up with a few thoughts.
Conversation, or the ability to converse, is a skill. It’s something we improve at the more we do. Like playing tennis.
On New Year’s Eve My Good Friend articulated a desire to expand his skills set. The fact that he mentioned it at the tip of the Year meant it had been on his mind for some time. In earmarking an area for development, he also recognised the only way to get better at talking with people, was to do this very thing.
That night we were amongst strangers. It was the perfect beginning.
While it might seem very obvious, it still surprises me at how hard this approach to communicating can be for some. Whether formerly shy, reclusive or socially not challenged, an inability to converse can creep up on people.
I’ve witnessed with my own eyes it happen to someone relatively close. He doesn’t have a partner who pushes him to step outside his social and conversational comfort zone and he doesn’t push himself. Each time I see him, he appears to be getting worse. He asks no questions, carries no conversation, sits separate.
How do you turn it around? You start with a warm smile, you follow it with a hello and how are you and listen to their response. You catch their eye and ask another question and if they seem rather stiff in conversation keep up the questions.
It sounds very easy, but for many it quite simply is not. Some people have allowed childhood shyness morph into adult communication laziness.
Shy is a valid excuse until 15 but as the years continue to creep on by it’s an excuse that doesn’t hold. At 15-plus it isn’t an inability to make conversation that prevents formerly-shy-types from chit-chatting, but trained behaviour in conversation-avoiding.
The thing with improving the ability to speak with people is the solution is obvious and really not that hard.
A final note: my Good Friend is better at talking with people than he realises. He is interesting, engaging and he listens. He may sometimes be a wee bit awkward, but it’s also part of his charm.