It’s amazing how quickly time moves. I feel like it was just 2 months ago that I was buying plane tickets to Prague and still a bit unsure about what it was I actually going to do on this trip. As of today, I have a bit more outlined, but am leaning toward my “P” tendencies (of the INFP personality type as defined by Myers-Briggs) and want to leave some of the trip in a more undefined state. Hostels are aplenty in Europe and tickets for train rides don’t get crazy expensive if you don’t purchase them months in advance.
I feel like I’ve already gone through a lot of internal change just in preparing for this trip. The fact that I’ve mentally prepared to take this trip by myself has brought upon some anxiety and concern. But then friends have reached out and put me in touch with people they know in places I’m going so I’ll have people to reach out to and possibly even hang out with. It’s through these actions that I’m reminded people here are thinking of me as I prepare to travel to far away lands.
With just one business week left before I go, I’m realizing I have much to do and a bit of knowledge to share with coworkers to allow them to work well in my absence over this next month. I also have a lot of personal activities and hanging out with people prior to my trip, along with more things to buy (of course.) I have just all about my tech needs resolved with my DSLR and a small, but powerful enough, laptop to handle my photo editing and uploading, along with my pretentious blogging needs (right, Joy?)
My hope is that all of you who read my blog and keep up with my travels and reflections will share comments here and join with me in the journey. While I’ll be traveling alone, I know I’ll still be connected to people. Though I hope not to be tethered to a laptop and the Internet whenever I’m not sight seeing.
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.
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.
Definition of intentional: “characterized by conscious design or purpose”
I’ve had a growing conviction that life, mine specifically, should be filled with more purpose and a sense of intentionality. Everything we say and do should carry weight to it and should be thoughtfully considered before we act. As I write this blog entry, am I giving it the full attention it deserves or am I simply writing fast to post it and fill up blog space? Or am I only trying to sound witty and insightful for its own sake? For whoever reads this, it will make an impression, for however short or long a time. Did I put my best foot forward and give a memorable and beneficial presentation of myself and ideas? How intentional was I in this process?
Part of being intentional is giving everything we do 100%. Every moment matters. Everything we do makes an impact, minimally to our own lives and almost certainly will influence the lives of others in some manner. And that also means I need to do better about giving my undivided attention to the task or person at hand. It’s not fair to myself or others to not be fully engaged.
I think another aspect of being intentional is being proactive. More and more of what I’m seeing is a reactionary response to everything around us. we complain about the problems instead of formulating potential solutions. We find ways to place responsibility and blame on anyone who isn’t the person we see in the mirror. You will have nobody to point a finger at but yourself when you look around wondering why who you are isn’t you wanted to be if you didn’t do anything to change the situation. It’s time to take action and work to make your world more of what you want it to be. That can mean taking steps of faith in directions you’re unsure of, but that’s why they’re steps of faith, right?
I reread the definition above and want my life to be “characterized by conscious design or purpose.” As I write this, I’m challenging myself to live in such a way that is impactful and meaningful. That means being deliberate and intentional about my blog posts, choosing my words carefully before writing that tweet, considering my audience when updating my Facebook status, reviewing that email to the client and making sure I’ve covered all my bases and mean everything I say before it comes out of my mouth.
The existence of this space to provide an outlet for sharing my thoughts and reflections on life has not been very reflective lately. If I were to look here or in my personal journals, one may think very little is going on inside this head of mine based on the lack of entries. Really though, there are a lot of thoughts traversing their ways through the admittedly very full and somewhat easily distracted brain I own. Thankfully, most of you can’t see the behind the scenes activity. It is worrisome to me and I’m the one in control of these thoughts!
Today I was reminded via a quote at a friend’s blog that basically said if you’re thinking, you are writing about it. It can be to help formulate more coherent thought or simply to remember what the idea was at that moment. The article my friend referenced also said writing is hard. That author is right. Being able to write coherent and full sentences that convey a message proves more challenging to create for the writer and in some ways more difficult to digest to today’s reader.
So what’s the point of all this? Mainly that I need to find a more consistent outlet for my ideas and thoughts that I have been keeping to myself. Whether it’s response to news, conversations with friends, or even a reaction to a billboard, if there is significant meaning, then it should be explored in greater detail. The goal would be that I have more article posted, hopefully with more logic and coherence as time goes on.