Growing Our Human Potential

The Superficial Conversation

When you meet and ask someone to tell you about themselves, how do they respond? How would you respond if asked this question?

DeepThought3Traditions and culture play a signficant role in how we respond along with the purpose of the encounter. So let’s put a few scenarios around this question and see if it makes a difference.

Scenario # 1. Someone introduces you to a co-worker you perceive as important at your work. They begin talking with you and ask the question, Tell me about yourself? How would you respond?

Scenario # 2. Still at work you meet a friend of a co-worker you are friends with. Same question. How would you respond?

Scenario # 3. Outside of work you meet some friends, and one of your friends asks how you would reply to this question, how would you respond?

Scenario # 4. You are with your significant other or closest friend. How would you respond?

Based on my experience most people struggle with this question no matter what the context is. Our replies tend to be safe and superficial, focusing on our job, marital status, hobbies or religion. We respond with “having” and “doing” aspects of our identity. Why? We live in a culture that promotes more superficial and safe communication. I get that part. Imagine coming out of the gate with a reply focusing more on my “being” such as, “I am a loving, caring and compassionate person who has overcome a lot of adversity and challenges in my life and now focusing on helping others.”

DeepThoughtI tried this on several occassions in more traditional settings (business, in-flight, impromptu meetings) and my reply was met with silence or a simple “That’s nice”. It became awkward and often the conversation came to an end. When I replied that “I am a Educator working for XXX Corporation and a big Red Sox fan” it was met with great enthusiasm with many follow-up questions and ensuing conversation. What I realized is that I had to endure a period of superficial conversation before I dared share a “deeper” aspect of my life. Sometimes this was necessary to develop a level of trust and rapport with each other before going deeper. But that is just me. I thrive on the deep philosophical conversations relating to the meaning of life. I tend to find anything else boring.

This is NOT meant to be judgemental suggesting that I am better than those who communicate differently or use more small talk. In fact, I often find myself envious of those around me who have the gift of gab. As an introvert, I have always struggled with starting and carrying a conversation. It is also a reflection of the time I spent in my life contemplating very deep concepts. It is just what I have an interest in.

However, I would also suggest that we avoid deeper conversations due to the lack of introspective work we do with ourselves. We only know ourselves more at the outer levels which supports more superficial conversation. This was true of myself prior to my quest to discover who I really am. So I guess one of the reasons I am so passionate on the topic of personal growth may be an interest in finding others that are interested in similar conversations? Hmmm… a new realization as I type this (-:

It can feel lonely having to communicate so much at what I consider to be the superficial level. I guess that is why I so often seek solitude and read, so that I can ponder things on my own. And every once in a while I meet with others who have had reason to go deep within and we talk for hours sharing our philosophy with each other.


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