Categories
Musings Opinion

Interactive and Thoughtful Discourse: Part 2

In a recent blog post, I began sharing some thoughts on challenges and the lack of depth present in our communication. I’d like to share more on this topic and maybe even open up a dialog here on how we can work to improve how we interact with one another.

It’s a two-way street, people. One of my growing frustrations with “conversations” is how infrequently we’re able to have them in a manner that hasn’t devolved to mere statements of information about your life. I’ve overheard and been part of so many chats with friends that are comprised of one-off statements that have typically have little to no connection to what was just said. Person A says, “I was thinking about trying out this new burger place this week.” Person B replies, “That’s cool. I went for a 3 mile run last night. Man, it was tough, but felt really great to finish it.” I’m saddened that we are so focused on getting our thought out that we don’t even process or acknowledge what our friend is trying to share.

What would be so difficult about Person B pausing to ask about this burger place and why his friend wants to go there before changing topics and talking about his run? Honestly, very little at the surface. However, what it requires is that you put your own needs aside for a second and engage in what interests your friend. Who knows, if you stop to learn more about what your friend is sharing, you may find that it actually interests you too! What’s the lesson here? Listen to people once in a while. Ask questions that clarify and confirm that you hear what’s being said. You may also find a level of depth in others that may surprise and delight you. There’s a lot more to people than they’re willing to let on until they’re asked a couple simple questions.

Is there an echo? A bigger challenge in finding enjoyable and thoughtful discourse with others is watching and listening to people talking about stuff they read online or see on TV without a thought to call their own. Call it The Echo Effect. Most frequently I see this effect take hold in the tech world, mostly because that’s where I spend a lot of my time and energy. Countless blogs and Twitter accounts find one piece of news, post about it and all link back to the original source or link to one of the other “news” blogs. I’m pretty convinced that if you were to remove all content that duplicated the original source, you could save over 50% of that vast wealth of information on the Internet. We don’t need more parrots echoing what’s still ringing in my ear from 3 days ago.

I don’t want regurgitated data; I want analysis and interpretation and a fresh perspective.  I want to see us be capable of have meaningful conversation about politics, tech, culture, religion, and whatever you want to talk about. I want us to have original thought. The next time some news article or TV show catches your eye and you want to share it with me, be prepared to tell me why it caught your eye. What resonated with you, whether it be positive or negative? What kind of impact do you think it will have your life? Or mine? Or on the surrounding culture?

So what can we can take away from my ramblings? Here’s the bulleted version for the article skimmers:

  • Listen to people.
  • Ask questions of others. Don’t just talk about yourself.
  • Analyze the information you take in. Have your own thoughts! Don’t just repeat it to others. You’re not helping anybody.

We don’t have time to waste babbling on about nothing. Let’s make our time interacting and conversing worthwhile to both of us. I hope you join me in wanting and practicing interactive and thoughtful discourse.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Categories
Musings Opinion

Interactive and Thoughtful Discourse: Part 1

Warning: this post is somewhat lengthy. I hope you can hold your attention for long enough and that it mostly makes sense.

A couple weekends ago, I met up with a friend for dinner and drinks to catch up I hadn’t seen in a while. Over the course of the evening, conversation ran the course of the normal “what’s new with you?”, “how’s the job?”, and “any new projects around the house?” These are all usually pretty safe topics for people to discuss, usually without the need to expose yourself to anything beyond the surface or that require much pause for thought  before opening our mouths.

 

However, the bigger challenge facing our friendships and relationships with people relates to our ability to have real conversation. All too frequently our communication with one another, whether it be in person or online, deteriorates into meaningless chatter. The worst part of it is most of us don’t notice or simply don’t care that in the middle of all this noise, nobody’s really saying anything at all. If there is anything being said, how much of the content is only about yourself? How often do you find yourself asking your friends questions about anything?

Interactive and thoughtful discourse is lost on us. We turn our “conversations” with one another into a handful of categories, such as:

  • Let me tell you about myself and I don’t really care what you think of it unless you like it/agree with it
  • Let me tell you about what I heard on TV/read online
  • Let me try to one-up you with my incredible wit and really funny insights into the world. Likely I’ll be posting these things on Facebook and Twitter, too. Please like everything I say and do on FB, BTW. Thx!

There is plenty of evidence to show our American culture has been pretty self-centered for a really long time and more anecdotal proof arrives by the truckload daily. What of social media’s place? Isn’t it supposed to connect us in ways we never imagined? I’m a fan of the services out there as much as the next guy, but take a step back and ask yourself “why do I share what I share online?” If we all admit it to ourselves, we all want some level of attention. Connecting with friends is a great cover letter for social networking’s initial purposes, but we all know there’s a little “look at me” component. And maybe a little bit of that is OK. Moderation in everything, right? At least that’s how the phrase goes.

I think part of the problem lies in the mediums we use to communicate. (This is where part of the conversation with my friend starts to come into play.) Our conversation turned to how infrequently our interactions with each other mentally stimulate us now. My friend “C” was telling me how he had this really engaging chat over a few hours about his friend’s business idea. When you come away from a conversation energized, you know you actually got your mind – and depending on the topic, maybe your heart – connected to what was going on. If we don’t feel anything, why are we wasting our time on it in the first place?

So C and I continued our chat and lamented a bit about the lack of genuineness in social network interactions like those on Facebook and Twitter. We debated possible reasons for this. For me, one of the primary drivers is that both platforms ultimately don’t allow the space for depth. This shouldn’t be a surprise on Twitter. Really, how deep can you get with 140 characters? And while Facebook’s platform gives you more characters for updates and that “personal” space to share with friends, your profile turns into quick sound bytes and quips about topics that rarely give much insight into who you truly are, especially when you have a larger and larger friend list that makes you feel like you’re yelling into an already overcrowded room. We’ve lost the ability to communicate quietly but with true depth and instead only know how to barely stand in the shallow end of the pool.

In a future post, I will continue to share my thoughts on conversational styles, discourse on topics, and more. Thanks for making it this far. Perhaps you’ll come back for Part 2.

Categories
House Musings

A Calm Friday Morning

This was the view of my dining room as I left for work last Friday. A nice bright morning that called for a time of reflecting at the table and thinking about… anything. It’s too bad I didn’t have time and needed to head out the door. Perhaps that will teach me to get up a little earlier to enjoy some silence and sunlight. Oh, and that awesome blue accent wall.

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Musings

Being Single When Most of Your Friends Aren’t

It’s a common scenario that many of us encounter, usually starting sometime in our mid-20’s. You have a decent size group of friends who are mostly single and unattached to anybody. Maybe you also have that token dating couple to keep thing diverse. Then that couple gets married. Everyone celebrates that first marriage in your social circle. At some point, one of the guys who you never expected to find a girl crazy enough to talk to him is the next one in line to get married. Over time, those couples start having kids. Everyone continues to share the joy of these experiences. However, time and changes in life stage begin to change all that.

As the single person, you still have ¬†your own sense of schedule and freedom that doesn’t work with your married friends, especially those with kids. Life is more scheduled now, or at least not as much driven by your own needs and wants. We adapt to make everythin work. And what I was thinking about most recently is that the single friend who wants to keep friendships with his married/with kids friends, he also adapts to their lifestyles like hanging out at their homes since their kids need to sleep early. Mostly gone are the days of impromptu going out for a drink or the random 2AM run to Meijer (unless it’s to grab diapers for your newborn, like I and a friend just did this past weekend.)

Don’t misunderstand me here in my thought dump. I love all my friends who are married and may also have kids. They are a dear part of my life and I wouldn’t be the same without them. But as someone who is still very much single in his early 30’s, I still have sparks of spontaneity and want to do stuff on the fly. Those days are falling farther and farther into my past, not because I’m turning into someone who stays home all the time, but because my social circle have new roles in life that don’t always perfectly align with mine anymore. And that’s OK. We work through that and continue to have community. I’m open to hearing thoughts and feedback as I continue to work through this and understand my role as the single person in a roomful of people paired off with each other.

Categories
Musings

What of the wretched hollow, the endless in between…

Ever since I first heard this song from Imogen Heap’s album, “Ellipse”, I felt like there’s a greater truth within the words that’s waiting for me to find it and apply to my own life.

To me, the song speaks to my own life-long endeavors in their very undefined state and asking me if I’m doing anything about them in the midst of pain and imperfection. I’ve heard often that those life moments that define you actually happen between those big moments. It’s the sum of our lives that make us who we are, not just what we do in a fleeting moment in time. We can all act or pretend once in a while, but can we do it all the time?

However, when I first heard this song, what really struck me was how this spoke to my single life and how I was (and if I’m honest, still am) letting the pains of my past get in the way of living in the now. More specifically, this song forces me to ask the question of where I stand in the world of relationships and if I’m waiting for time to heal all the scars from a lifetime of seeing and experiencing broken relationships within my family and among friends. I’m pretty sure I’ve told myself that one day I’ll magically be ready for marriage and “being an adult.” But while I wait to heal and come to some very undefined place of readiness, I’m still living life; things don’t stop moving because I’m not ready for them to forge ahead.

So what am I going to do? Am I just going to wait it out, here in the wretched hollow, the endless in between?

Wait It Out by Imogen Heap

Where do we go from here?
How do we carry on?
I can’t get beyond the questions.
Clambering for the scraps
in the shatter of us collapsed.
It cuts me with every could-have-been.

Pain on pain on play, repeating
With the backup makeshift life in waiting.

Everybody says time heals everything.
But what of the wretched hollow?
The endless in-between?
Are we just going to wait it out?

There’s nothing to see here now,
turning the sign around;
We’re closed to the Earth ’til further notice.
A Stumbling cliche case,
crumbled and puffy faced.
Dead in the stare of a thousand miles.

All I want, only one street-level miracle.
I’ll be a an out-and-out, born again from none more cynical.

Everybody says time heals everything.
But what of the wretched hollow?
The endless in-between?
Are we just going to wait it out?

And sit here cold?
Well, We’ll be long gone by then.
And lackluster in dust we lay
Around old magazines.
Fluorescent lighting sets the scene
for all we could and should be being
in the one life that we’ve got.

(Ah, Ah, Ah)

In the one life that we’ve got.

Everybody says that time heals everything.
But what of the wretched hollow?
The endless in-between?

Are we just going to wait it out? sit Here?
Just going to Wait it out? Sit here cold?
Just going to sweat it out?
Wait it out.

Categories
Musings

Communication and the Lack Thereof

This week I relearned the hard truth that communication issues, whether in the form of misunderstandings or lack of actual questions or answers, has very real impact in our lives. Assumptions are made by each party in any conversation; one that the communicator assumes the listener understands, and two that the listener gets what the other person is trying to say. Too often, though, we find we’re not very good at saying what we meant to say. Nor are we always consistent about getting clarification. I wonder how different my life would be if I just asked one more question or used another word to explain something.

A friend has once said that 90% of the world’s problems are caused by bad communication. While this isn’t based on any definitive research, it’s very true that if we took the extra minute to be clear, life wouldn’t be so challenging sometimes.

Categories
Musings

It’s National Poetry Month?

A good friend of mine in Tennessee tells me it’s National Poetry Month. That sounds like a request for me to dust off some of my old works and find a couple to post here on my blog over the coming weeks. Get ready for some teen angst driven emotions to pour out. And maybe a more rare emotionally driven writing from my 20’s.

Categories
Musings

Hello March 2010

How did 1/6th of the year already pass by? A lot has happened, but I feel like there isn’t much to show for it in my personal life. What have I really done? How have I been challenged to change? I recently revisited my last post about being more intentional and am finding it’s a difficult task. From things as simple as being diligent about working out to being better about keeping in touch with friends, life is harder than it seems.

I have a number of entries started and in “draft” status. Perhaps March will be a month when I release a couple of them to the world.