Or ~ The Five Levels of Conversation
You’ve been bored before, right?
(Yeah, yeah – maybe even here!)
See if these are the sorts of conversation agonies that bore you:
- The Prima Donna talks only about herself;
- The Pulpit-Hog launches into lengthy “sermons;”
- The Unobservant has no idea your eyes have long glazed over;
- The Prude avoids the pith and zest of life;
- The Afraid-to-Offend sticks to topics so fluffy they are content-free;
- The Conflict-Averse never utters anything worth arguing about;
- The Disinterested-in-Life can find nothing of interest to share;
- The Puritan won’t tell or “get” a joke;
- The Cliché-Hound offers up nothing but (you got it) “Clichés”
So – in the face of these onslaughts to our time and intelligence, we have options.
If we’re at one of those compulsory-enjoyment parties, encountering one of the above one could ~
- Urgently fain illness or incontinence and speed to the nearest facilities;
- Politely swoon from hunger or thirst and make for the food and beverage trays;
- Become exasperated with your (where-have-I-put-the rascal?) missing hearing aid and head to your car;
- Seek revenge by introducing your companion to someone else;
- Or – one can jump ahead to HELP – WHAT TO DO? below for a kinder approach.
And if we find we are growing bored by our own beloved over the morning coffee, we most definitely will want to invest in a kinder approach.
HELP – WHAT TO DO?
We get bored when people hide.
When they don’t show up with honesty, courage, authenticity and some excitement for who they are so we can pick up on that.
And, when they are oblivious to us as their companion on this journey of conversation. So, for a person not to be boring, they need to come out from behind their hiding place.
Check out these five levels of conversation which explain this idea.
The Five Levels of Conversation
Level 5: Small Talk. Verbal ping-pong designed to keep the ball in the air. Fluff for avoiding silences. We tend to be neither invested nor particularly attentive. E.g.,
“How are things?”
It’s the filling of silence. We don’t really care what we hear back. At a party it’s tolerable. In a long-term relationship it’s death. If we are stuck with someone caught up in fluff, invite them to drop down a level. Can they share some interesting facts? What have they done lately? What are they hoping to do? It’s OK to stay with the facts m’am.
Level 4: Factual Conversation. He-said / she-said.
My Dad (bless him!) dwelt here. He loved the “Name that fact” game. This first is one of his.
- “How many gallons of fuel do you think it takes to run the Victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria?”
But all of these fit this category.
- “What was the score?”
- “Did I tell you about that time when I drove cross country and…..”
- “Hey I put my four point seven on my eight three cos it was blowing twenty plus but it really must have been closer to thirty so I switched to my four point two and put it on my seven eleven.” (Yes – this is how my husband Mark would talk to his wind-surf buddies at the Columbia George back in the 1980s)
Functional, maybe. Factual, probably. But not sustainable over the long haul! If we are stuck with someone fixated on facts, invite them to drop down a level. Might they have an opinion about a particular fact? Is something too long, too much, too loud? What might they dare risk thinking about something?
Level 3: Ideas and Opinions.
Getting better here. For those bores at a party who are loath to show up with a genuine thought or opinion, encouraging them with questions about their ideas and opinions can invite them to come out from behind themselves. If they are hogging the floor with their ideas and opinions, obviously the challenge is for you to insert yours somewhere.
I remember a great opening gambit I found quite shocking at a party in Auckland when we lived there:
“You know (said a guest at a party) I think we ought to ban all cats from the country. All house cats, all pets.”
As a dog and cat lover I was shocked. “Whatever for?” I asked.
“Cats are eating our endangered song birds and ground nesting birds. They are a total menace!” was the response. OK – fair enough. There’s grist for the conversation mill for sure.
So, while you are stepping toward intimacy there is a danger you may stay in the head-trippy place of ideas and opinions. If we are stuck with someone caught up in opinions, invite them to drop down a level. Opinions are a terrific step – and can they risk telling us how they feel about an issue? Sure, in their opinion cats ought to be slaughtered, but how do they feel about the song birds? What sparked this love and loyalty? Do they have a song-bird tale to tell?
Level 2: Feelings and Emotions.
Now we’re getting somewhere. How you feel about what is going on in your life is gritty, real, and intimate. The stuff of true relating.
So are you angry, frustrated, excited, overwhelmed, resentful, excited?
Going back and forth with someone you want to get to know more fully, or someone you know and care about – this is real communication now.
A wonderful combo is to alternate ideas and opinions with how you feel about it.
“You know – I hear you about that cat-ban. I love the songbirds too. And, I love my cats! They are part of my family. And it seems to me to be morally offensive to have a government, or special-interest, dictate to me the nature of my household – which species I may or may not live with. I think we need to find another way through this difficulty.”
It is hard to feel “stuck” here. This is a terrific level of communication and many of us are happy to bob and weave through the first four levels. If we are truly in synch with a beloved however, we might find ourselves so moved, so connected that a sharing of feelings and emotions between people. becomes transformative.
Level 1: Deep Insight.
We are up in rarefied air here. This is that place where the connection between two people is transformative. From time to time you may find yourself perfectly in tune with someone else. There is an understanding, closeness, and deep emotional connection. Ideally this happens between people who love and are committed to one another. Not every day for sure – but enough. What might that look like? This is not necessarily a true tale, but imagine if the cat lover and song bird rescuer had been able to have a deeply respectful conversation – might they have come up with this idea… of finding ways for cats and song birds to co-habit? This deep soul connection conversation is not always about finding win-win solutions to shared issues. It happens in my office a lot when two people are willing to show vulnerability; to express pain, to listen to the other person’s vulnerability. And this is a sweet story about a woman who resolved the song bird and cat issue!
Here is a fun article about how feeling bored (not just bored by conversation – but that deeper boredom) can be a great catalyst for social engagement. See what you think!
FIRST TIME HERE?
This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.
If you are interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.
SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING
SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”
SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.
- Report The News – Don’t Act it Out
- Happy Families
- Self Leadership
- When Does A Relationship Need Help?
SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity
- 5 Non verbal Cues You Need To Know
- How To Change Someone Else
- 2 Magic Ratios for Great relationships
- Is Understanding Overrated?
SKILLS FOR CONNECTING
SKILL FOUR ~ Master the Art of Conversation