Let's make a pact that the next time we see each other we don't start the conversation with either of the following: "How's work [business]?" or "How are the kids?" Trust me, I'm so guilty of asking these very questions, but I'd love to see what happens when we remove that default. While these questions are well-intended as conversation starters, they tend to limit a more meaningful conversation where we might really get to know each other at a deeper level.
Despite being uber-connected thanks to social media, email, and instant messaging, I actually feel a longing for more meaningful connections within my community. I often feel disconnected and use "busyness" (like it's a verb) as an excuse for not establishing a deeper connection with you. Then, when I run into you, I jump to that mindless default of: "Hey! How's work?" or "How are the kids?" And you do the same to me. Then we each proceed to give a very surface-level preview of all of our "busyness."
Don't get me wrong. I love talking about my kids. They are usually the center of my world. And I don't mind talking about work. In fact, I really enjoy talking about the real estate market. I also enjoy hearing about your kids and your work, BUT there's SO much more to me than that. And I know there's so much more to you than that. You're much more than how much business you've done this year or that current deal you're working on. You're much more than what your kids are working on too.
That gap of silence that exists if we don't default to asking about work or kids could be filled with some real magic. That's where your passion projects are. Your hobbies. Your talents. Your upcoming travels or past journeys. Maybe you just signed up for a pottery class or, like me, decided to try adult beginner ballet classes at age 41. Perhaps you have a new significant relationship in your life. Maybe work is your entire world, but even then there's usually something deeper that's driving that intensity. I want to know about that.
Take my husband, for example. He's a brilliant problem-solver as a software developer, but if you only asked him "How's work?" or "How are the kids", you'd completely miss that he's an insanely talented professional musician who always has a new pursuit within music that he's studying. His current fascination is a deep-dive study of David Bowie! He can go from a Cuban music project to David Bowie, but he's always got a new music project in the works. Ultimately, that passion for creating art is the same passion that drives him to "build cool shit" at work as a software developer, but if you only asked him about work, you wouldn't really capture that deeper piece of what drives him.
My career pivot that started several years ago was driven not only by my desire to reprioritize my life, but also to untether my identity and sense of self-worth from my work. For the first couple years of that journey, I pretty much stopped going to business events, classes, or networking events because I was so sick of people asking "How's biz?" Gah! I don't want to talk about that all the time! I was doing so much work to re-align my life inside and outside of my career and reconnect with other interests, but nobody ever asked about that. And that reinforced this notion that my identity or worth was indeed defined by my career alone.
I kept wondering about my stay at home mom or stay at home dad friends. How annoying is this to them? I'm guessing the first question they get is "How are the kids?" And while they probably love talking about their kids, as I do, there's so much more to all of us than that. I have so many dynamic "stay at home" friends. Many of them have incredible passion projects they are pursuing, or they are working a side hustle as a soloprenuer. But we wouldn't know that about each other if we just started (and ultimately ended) the conversation with asking about the kids...or work.
So let's make a pact. Let's not default to those questions immediately. How about "What are you really excited about today?" "What projects have you been working on lately?" If that's work, Awesome! Tell me about it. If it's a new hobby, a new music project, a new blog or podcast, Awesome! I'd love to hear about it. Other questions could be "What are you studying right now?" "Have you read any great books lately?" And for other podcast junkies like me "What's your favorite podcast right now?"
This is going to have to be an intentional practice for me and I'm sure I will slip and default to asking you about work, or the kids, and ending the conversation there. Just like I occasionally catch myself asking my kids "How was school?" when I pick them up from school. I know that question goes absolutely nowhere and shuts down deeper connection with my kids. Many years ago, we decided to change that dialogue by talking about our rose and thorn each day. And even with that intentional practice, I still occasionally default to "How was school?"and always get the same half-annoyed answer of "fine". It's not too different from the answer I typically hear when I ask a friend or acquaintance "How's work?" The answer is usually the same. "Good. Busy!"
So let's make a pact that the next time we see each other we will try not to start the conversation with either of the following: "How's work/business?" or "How are the kids?" Let's fill that gap of silence with a more engaging conversation and the deeper magic of finding that internal spark that really lights each of us up.
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash