On conversation

Earlier in the month I blogged about a forth-coming book called RECLAIMING CONVERSATION by Sherry Turkle, the author of ALONE TOGETHER.  I resolved to focus on meaningful conversations in my life rather than the social media version via “likes” and “shares.”

While having tea with a friend the other day, we got to talking about conversation itself and the different kinds of conversations we have with the people closest to us versus with colleagues and acquaintances.

When we first meet people, we do a lot of story-telling.  We share experiences.  We try to present ourselves in a way appropriate to the situation.  It’s kind of tacky to say we are “on message,” but it’s the truth.  We are trying to be professional with colleagues or be scintillating with someone we might be attracted to.  It’s not that we aren’t honest, but we don’t bare everything.

Cam_MitchellWith family and close friends, we don’t have the same kinds of conversation.  We already know the stories.  We often talk less because there’s more subtext.  We get each other’s reference both humorous and snide.  We know the things that are likely to provoke or upset.  When we’re being kind, we avoid those things.  When we’re tweaked, not so much.

Our conversations hold more of the mundane but can get deep and emotional much faster.  Maintaining intimacy and connection with family takes effort.  We have to be more intentional about our conversations.  I think the tendency is to avoid  the ones that are hard because we are entrenched in the way things are.

It’s scary to muck about in the system we’ve got working within our family even if it’s not working very well.  But the mucking about could be an opportunity, too.  A chance to deepen our relationships and step beyond the day-to-day that so frequently dominates our interactions.

I loved a scene from a recent episode of Modern Family.  Cam and Mitchell go out to a romantic meal but agree not to talk about their upcoming wedding or their daughter, Lily.  Their conversation is stilted and uncomfortable until suddenly it goes deep, way deep, when the couple at the table near them implodes.  By the end, Cam and Mitchell are in a better place.

Just like real life.