This week: And How Are You? Edited by: Kittiara
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|Are you an excellent conversationalist, or do you find social interaction a little tricky? What is your top tip for those who wish to improve their social skills?|
This week's Spiritual Newsletter offers some thoughts on how we can be better communicators.
|How good a conversationalist are you? Do you know how to listen? Do you know how much to share? As an autistic person I don’t always get it right. In group situations (not my strong point to begin with) it can be difficult to know if and when to join a conversation. And I sometimes worry if I’m oversharing – this may be a cultural thing, too. I have found that Dutch people tend to enter deeper conversations at an earlier stage in the getting-to-know-you process than English people do, which can end up making everyone feel awkward. I am certain that it differs on an individual level, but I have heard similar stories from other Dutch people. |
Some people are socially confident; others are not. Even the socially confident don’t always shine, though. I know someone who loves to entertain, adores hosting dinner parties, but what she seems to like above everything else is to share these stories that… don’t altogether seem real. She’s great fun, but adding up what she has told me she’s had about twenty major careers by now, in which she was the undisputed expert, and she’s met pretty much every single person of prominence in every field that you could possibly think of, who all agree that she is simply the best. That’s quite a life. And perhaps she is being truthful. Good for her, if so. It just doesn’t seem genuine, and that makes me wonder if I actually know anything about this person…
There are people who don’t seem to want to know anything about you. A relative of mine happily chats away with me every week and never asks me a single question. No how are you?, nothing about my work, my studies, my hobbies or interests. If I didn’t volunteer snippets of information he wouldn’t have a clue. It’s not just me, either. He’s got a set evening where he spends time on the phone with his family and he truly values this. He’ll update us on what’s going on with him. But that’s it. That’s how he communicates. It’s a little baffling.
Equally baffling is a relative of my husband’s. She’ll ring us every few months to see how everyone is doing. She doesn’t want details. It’s more like, “Is this person well?” “Yes, she’s-“ “How about that person?” “Yes…” Once she’s made her way down the list she’ll say goodbye and hang up, not knowing anything beyond the fact that all’s well. And perhaps that’s all she wishes to know. How she is doing? We have no idea. The conversation’s ended by the time we could possibly get a word in to ask, and when anyone tries to ring her she won’t answer.
It could be that I am surrounded by odd people. It’s very possible. Because I also have a relative who is an expert at one-upmanship. Did anything good happen to you? She’s been there and done that, only better. Did you experience anything sad? She’s had it so much worse! I’m sure that if you told her you’ve been selected to be the first person to set foot on Mars, she’s about to go to Jupiter because it’s bigger. It can make it difficult to have an open conversation. I find myself actively censoring what I am about to say, just in case.
I love my family and my friends. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I am far from a perfect communicator. The truth is, socialising can be tricky. We’re individuals with individual lives and experiences and preferences and what works for one does not work for another.
Some standard guidelines, though, I think involve at least a decent attempt at listening to what the other person has to say. And to not just listen, but hear. Instead of rushing to work out what you’re going to share next about yourself, engage with what they’re saying. Show a genuine interest. That goes a long way towards helping someone to open up.
It is okay to share about yourself, of course, but don’t try to outdo the other person’s achievements. If they’ve just graduated, for example, or if they were promoted at work, don’t jump in about that time you graduated or got promoted – I’m sure that those were splendid occasions, but now’s not the time to bring them up. Be happy for the person you’re communicating with. Share in their joy. Likewise, if they’re going through a tough time, support them rather than minimising their experience by letting them know that either you’re having it worse or by trying to remind them that other people in general have it worse. It’s not helpful. It’s not going to improve anything. Be there, listen, sympathise. Hear.
Even a simple how are you doing? matters – that is, if you are willing to listen to the answer. Sometimes we all need to feel seen, and heard.
So, how are you doing? I hope that you’re well.
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The Spiritual Newsletter Team
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