I am going to assume that most of us here are probably college students or young adults. At least that’s what the statistics say. We have lived our lives analyzing meaningful conversations, and, in short, this is what we have likely concluded.
Meaningful Conversations Within Work
Many of you likely started in some form of retail or service industry. We have been told that this will help build our resumes and make us better candidates in the future for when we get a big person job. Let’s break down what this actually means. You turn 16, and your parents force you to get a job in the hope that you won’t grow up like your older sibling. Once you get this job with literally no previous experience at all, you are taught to sell by establishing meaningful connections with customers who come in. in short, you have to kiss every Karen’s ass when she walks in the door for a position that likely won’t even help you in the long run.
Meaningful Conversations Within School
While your English professor praises you for your latest paper featuring critical thought and APA style, he fails to understand that you banged this profound paper out at 3 o’clock in the morning with 2 red bulls and some shots. He might have even said there was a lot of meaning in this paper and looks forward to seeing more from you in your writing. While you ponder this feedback and consider it positive, it dawns on you that Google was the primary source of information, and you just rambled for 6 additional pages about somebody else’s idea.
This generally leads you to where you are now. Read an article about what meaningful conversations actually are because, at this point, the word meaningful is a sales pitch that’s been drilled into you by your previous boss or useless words formatted perfectly with Time New Roman 12-point font.
Meaning itself seems to have left a void in the majority of the human population over the last few years. We used to base meaning on our appearance, house, and bank account. While most of our day-to-day lives were stripped away, perhaps some of you found solace in family, friends, and community as opposed to the daily checklist you used to obsess over. Instead of positioning ourselves to hold meaningful conversations at work and school instead, use the next couple of suggestions on those that are close to you. If you don’t realize how meaningful people are, ask someone who has lost someone close to them in the last few years, they will tell you about meaning.
Listen Don’t Speak
Everybody wants to be heard. We all want to be able to express ourselves and have somebody else nod their head in apparent understanding and be able to respond with a coherent phrase that perfectly contributes to the conversation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, but the first thing that will help initiate meaningful discussions is sitting back and listening as opposed to speaking. When we genuinely listen to what another person says, we build trust and understanding. It also allows them to have the opportunity to share more openly than they had before. If you want to create meaningful conversations, listen, don’t speak.
Seek to Understand
We have all been raised in a society that seeks to respond. The main issue with seeking to respond is that was never truly listening in the first place. Our brains were analyzing for data to throw back at the person we corresponded with. If you don’t believe me, analyze your next fight with your partner. Are you responding or understanding. If you are the person listening in the conversation, seek to understand instead of waiting to respond. Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand what is being said. This is the best way to truly hear the other side. It is so incredibly rare to sit down with someone and feel genuinely heard. Give that experience to someone you care about. You might just walk away closer than you ever were before.
You might be wondering why this article is titled How to Create Meaningful Conversations when all that has been discussed is listening. We cannot expect someone else to connect to a meaningful conversation we want to have unless we have done the same for them.
For example, you go up to your partner after a big fight the night before. You are ready to put it all out on the table and have each of you clear the air, so no more time is wasted on the fight. Your partner does not feel like talking as they don’t think you have heard a single thing they have said in the past 24 hours. Instead, they have avoided you until now. Instead of walking up to this person you supposedly love, ready to throw hands, go up to them, and state, I am prepared to listen if you are ready to talk. With that being said, this means you have to actually listen to what they say. Don’t lie directly to their face and insert your opinions between every breath they take. Sit back and seek to understand. After they have completed their piece, ask if they would be willing to hear your side. You might just have the most effective and meaningful conversation of your life.
Communication has always been a challenge for people. We all communicate differently, and learning different forms of communication for each person we meet can often feel overwhelming. Think of the last time you first started a job and met a whole new group of people. How long did it take to learn and understand everyone’s communication styles? It takes that much longer to learn the communication styles and then create meaningful conversations with that person. Consider what is meaningful to you and start conversations around those topics or people. This might help you feel purposeful and powerful after creating a meaningful conversation you never thought you would have had before.