Transforming a One-Way Conversation With Love

Have you ever been in one of those social situations in which the conversation is all in one direction? You know what I mean, the people you are talking to all focus on telling you about them and their lives, ask you nothing about you and your life, and generally show little or no interest in anything you have to say.

ThePowerOfLoveAt a recent event I found myself in this position repeatedly. I complained to my wife that I didn’t know how much longer I could smile, show interest in other’s stories, and think of follow up questions.

As a professional listener, I have gotten quite good at asking people about themselves and finding genuine interest in what they have to say. I can do it in social situations too, but it can be frustrating at times to leave a party with no sense of real connection. I’m not looking for depth at a party, just a bit of genuine give and take.

So, after getting fed-up, I sat down and really thought about the cause of this behavior. It was not surprising to me that in my pondering I stumbled upon an answer in an oft quoted (by me) question from one of my best graduate school professors:  “How many people do you know who have enough love in their lives that they can afford to treat any of it as dessert rather than main course?”

Sit with that for a few moments, and it will change your attitude about social bores.

People who are “full of themselves” or “like to hear themselves talk” are often only seeking an exaggerated form of what we all want. As The Who so beautifully stated in their rock opera Tommy, “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.”

Human beings wither without attention, acknowledgement, and validation, and there is no better way to get attention, acknowledgement, and validation than by being loved.

Now, I’m human too, and I also need and want the attention, acknowledgement, and validation that come from being loved. I like being the center of attention and want to believe that what I have to say is interesting for others to hear. But I have also been blessed with enough love in my life that there are times, more frequently the older I get, that, through grace, I have enough to share with others without the need or expectation of reciprocity.

At those times, I am not thinking about what I want to say next. I am engaged fully in the moment, and the only things that come out of my mouth are validation of the other’s experience, encouragement to say more, and questions designed to elicit more.

I have discovered that when I am able to check my ego at the door and genuinely open my heart, my ears, and my eyes to whomever I am interacting with and give them my love, amazing things transpire.

The key word in the previous sentence is “genuinely”. This is not a technique but a stance, an approach, to others. There are by-products to be sure – new relationships, happy people, even sales and influence – but they are exactly that, by-products. When they happen they are the dessert. And when they happen, I can feel good about them because I know that the source of the dessert was, in that moment, a satiated soul.

I know that when I am able to find a way to interact from a stance of love and validation my own life is enhanced. To paraphrase my favorite speaker, Jim Rohn, “The more love you pour out, the more love will be able to pour in.”

But don’t take my word for it. Give it a try the next time you find yourself stuck talking to a social bore. You just might be surprised by the outcome!

Share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.

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About Gary M. Jordan Ph.D.

Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D. is a premier authority on behavioral theories and assessment construction. He has over 32 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. Gary earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley, and spent 18 years in private practice where he specialized in helping angry adolescents, couples in conflict, and individuals searching for more meaning and satisfaction in life.
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6 Responses to Transforming a One-Way Conversation With Love

  1. SandraMartini (@SandraMartini) says:

    AWESOME article Gary! Those who tend to monopolize conversations are often the ones who, in retrospect, I think *need* the most love, or at least seek it.

    Interestingly, my perception of the “social bore” was so re-framed by your article that, by the end, when you mention “social bore”, I felt my hackles rise in defense of them as someone seeking/needing our attention and love as opposed to the “monopolizer” I would have classified them as at the very beginning of reading your article.

    Thank you! This is one of those articles that has the potential to be life changing — for me and for those I come in contact with as I focus more on being fully present and attentive, truly giving without thought for reciprocation, rather than looking for a way out.

    • Gary M. Jordan Ph.D. says:

      Sandra, thank you so much for the feedback. Writing the article was important to me, but I was unsure how it would be received. In the end I decided that what I was trying to say overrode my concerns about how people would respond. Besides, if it got some people into a dialogue then so much the better!

      I totally agree with your second comment about the use of the phrase “social bore”. Every time I read the article it struck me as the wrong phrase at then end of the article, but for the life of me I couldn’t come up with a better one that communicated my intention. Perhaps we need to create a new phrase that covers a new understanding!

      Thank you again for sharing your affirmation and validation with me!

  2. Allison Rapp says:

    Hi, Gary…
    I think our kids have a common bond… the eye-rolling, foot-switching and impatient looks at the grocery store when you and I start talking to strangers! Samantha did tell me recently that she thought my doing ‘my thing’ with the resident manager of her new apartment building helped her get accepted as a tenant… vindication at long last!

    What caught my eye in this article was that the precipitating incident happened at a social event. I agree with everything you said about the quote from your old prof, and yet … we all need to recharge our batteries. Until I took the PSA and RSP, I thought of myself as a person who only recharges alone. But now that I know more about my Perceptual Style, I realize that sometimes I recharge in the presence of other people, and some of that happens in surface- or slightly-below-surface level conversations with people I meet out and about.

    For example, when I go to the grocery store, I look for the same two checkers and pick one of their lines over ones that might be shorter. Over years, we’ve gotten to know each other somewhat, and my trip out of my office does more for me when I have a quick chat with one of them than when I don’t. I always come home with food, but sometimes I come home with fuller batteries, too.

    So, I’m not dismissing your bigger point about love and helping people feel it. At the same time, I think we all need to be careful to take care of ourselves… and professional listeners who never stop working run the risk of never having anyone listen to them. More grist for my own mill…

    • Gary M. Jordan Ph.D. says:

      Hey Allison, thanks for the comment. Great insight into your own needs and how to take care of them! As for the “eye-rolling” — isn’t it interesting that one’s children are uncomfortable with a parent’s behavior until it benefits them! I have experienced the same thing with mine. As they grow older some of them have developed the ability (or habit) to striking up conversations with strangers themselves. I find that very gratifying!

  3. Tai Omholt says:

    WOW, this is wonderful Gary! As a people person myself I have to admit I sometimes get caught up in the waiting for my turn to talk situation you speak about. EGO CHECKED! I will definitely be more alert to this! In no way do I want people to feel as if I don’t care about what they have to say .I Hate to think I have done this but already know I have! Thank you so much for this thought provoking article! It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes ” If you love someone, Fill them to the top with themselves, All that runs over, will be yours” Have a wonderful day and Thank you again!

    • Gary M. Jordan Ph.D. says:

      Hi Tai. I had never heard that quote before and I really like it. It fits my approach exactly!

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