“I’ve listened to your conversations at breakfast for three days. You never talk over each other. Amazing!” Our third day in Porto, Portugal, prior to our Camino walk, a fellow pilgrim who’d stayed at our hotel approached us as we began the Camino to share her observation. The four of us looked at each other, not quite knowing how to respond. Do we thank her for her observation or wonder why she was eavesdropping? We chose the former.
Once home, I paid closer attention to conversations as I moved through my days and heard elevated voices, interruptions, aggressive language, with very little listening. My mother-in-law cautioned me years ago to, “Beware of people who don’t ask questions.” My ears have been tuned to that frequency for some time.
This morning on National Public Radio, a moderator asked, “What makes a good conversation?” His suggestions included: Stay present and in the flow; Stop lecturing or thinking about what to say; Ask open ended questions; Admit when you don’t know; Be brief, don’t repeat; Put your phone away; Come from curiosity; Allow the silent moments, and never lose your sense of humor.
Reflecting on many conversations over our 25-day trip through Portugal and Spain, it was genuine curiosity and questioning that offered insights into the motivations and points of view of my travel companions and people we met along the way. Each conversation enhanced my journey. Ah, the power of listening.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events and great minds discuss ideas.” I’ve had my share of small and average conversations and strive for great ones. A good conversation creates aliveness and brings us closer together, rewarding us with the gift of presence.