About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

11 April 2014

Let's Talk About Me

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has sold more that 100 million books. His most popular book, The Alchemist, has been translated into 65 languages. He posted the following story at his blog:

I was just leaving St Patrick’s Church in New York when a young Brazilian came over to me.

"It’s great to see you," he said, smiling. "There’s something I wanted to tell you."

I was equally pleased at this encounter with a stranger. I invited him for a coffee, told him about my awful trip to Denver, and suggested that he go to Harlem on Sunday to attend a religious service there. The young man, who was in his twenties, listened to me without saying a word. I talked on. I said that I had just read a novel about a terrorist group that launches an attack on St Patrick’s Church, and that the author had described the scene in such detail that I had noticed many things I had never seen on previous visits. That was why I had decided to go to the church that morning. We spent nearly an hour together, drank two coffees, and I dominated the entire conversation. Afterward, we said goodbye, and I wished him a good trip.

"Thanks," he said, moving off.

That was when I noticed the sad look in his eyes; something was wrong and I didn’t know what. Only after walking a few blocks did I realize what it was: the young man had come over to me saying that there was something he needed to talk to me about. During the whole time we spent together, I had been in control of the situation. At no point had I asked him what he wanted to tell me; in my desire to be friendly, I had filled up all the spaces, I hadn’t allowed one moment of silence when the young man could have transformed a monologue into a dialogue. He may have had something really important to share with me. Perhaps if I had been truly open to life at that moment, I too would have had something to give to him. Perhaps both my life and his would have changed radically after that encounter. I will never know and I am not going to torture myself with the fact that I failed to take advantage of a potentially magical moment: mistakes happen. But ever since then, I have tried to keep alive in my memory that farewell scene and the sad look in the boy’s eyes. I was incapable of receiving what was destined for me and so was equally incapable of giving what I wanted to give, however hard I tried.

  • Who convenes the meetings or conversations in your life?
  • Who decides what you will talk about?
  • Who decides what you will not talk about?
  • Who decides what the conversational rules are?
  • Who decides when the conversation or meeting is over?
"Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would rather have talked." - Mark Twain

"I try to follow the advice that a university president once gave to a prospective commencement speaker. 'Think of yourself as the body at an Irish wake,' he said. 'They need you in order to have the party, but nobody expects you to say much.'" - Anthony Lake, former National Security Advisor

1 comment:

Anne McCrady said...

Thanks for this heart-warming reminder of the importance of intentional listening. Conversation at its best is a shared give-and-take of ideas and information, with each person listening as well as talking. It is somthing those of us who have much we want to tell the world sometimes forget.In fact, in that respect, conversation is a great metaphor for our lives: being open to others as a balance for our own agenda for each day! See more about my ideas on collaboration as a part of Greater Good Thinking at InSpiritry.com.