To find more of ourselves in one another.
In a world driven by technology and online communication it has become a rarity to genuinely connect in a way that fills you with a sense of being seen. Seen for who you really are, not the projection of yourself you create or judgement that others pass through their interpretation of this self-projection.
Genuine connection is being present with another human being. It is noticing the wrinkles around their eyes as they laugh at your witty one liner; making you feel funnier than you ever believed you were. The slight upward tilt of their eyebrows as they follow your story in disbelief; letting you know they are engaged and with you. The miniscule movements in the muscles around their mouth as they ponder how best to respond; allowing you to feel their investment in the conversation. I’m talking about those moments of true connection. In those moments, we are not only seen, but we are understood. We are revealed to another person in a way that brings closeness and a sense of belonging that feels like the first inhale outside your apartment on a crisp winter morning. New, invigorating, refreshing.
This is the difference between true connection and waiting for your turn to speak. The first few conversations I had with a friend of mine I recently reconnected with after many years were eye opening to me, I felt my neck turn red and my eyes dart away from his as he intently listened to what I’m sure was nonsense falling from of my mouth. He asked questions which proved his focus was on this moment and that he was right there with me. I felt seen for the first time in a long while, and I struggled to sit in that spotlight and acknowledge that I felt understood. Understood, accepted, and even treasured for being exactly who I am. No projection. No pretending. Just me, and it felt really freaking good.
This kind of connection is not something that comes with every interaction, unless we are consciously aware of what I have to come to know as ‘active’ conversation. This dear friend introduced me to this concept as he told me it was a skill we both had. He explained it as being present in the moment, actively listening, and not just listening but hearing before you respond. This intrigued me… “active” conversation, isn’t all conversation active? Isn’t the entire premise of conversation that we are actively involved in communication with another person? It would appear upon reflection how much I had to learn about this art form.
I finally had a name for something I knew had been missing from so many of my relationships, intimate and otherwise. This is an artistry that we can all excel in if we simply choose to be present, and in that choice, we are enriching our lives, and deepening our connections. Active conversation is engaging. It is spirited, it is lively, it is awakening and growing. It is a way for us to build closeness and deepen existing bonds, and it is a choice that we can all make to establish a realness that has been missing from so many of our interactions.
It is time for us to feel again. It is a simple gift that any human can give to another; the gift of presence. It is listening with the intent to understand, rather than to simply reply. It is listening to see the world through another’s eyes, to spend time looking through their lens. To feel. And to feel in this way is to be vulnerable; which is perhaps why so many of us shy away from these kinds of conversations, without realizing the gift we are missing out on not only giving, but also receiving.
Imagine a world where we listened, truly listened to one another. A world where we were present to one another’s intrinsic desire to be understood and accepted, to find a place where we belong; to find a home in another person and allow them to find a home in us. In this home the door is unlocked; all you have to do is turn the handle and take the step inside.
There is no substitute in this world for real connection, for someone trying to understand you, for an acceptance that comes from a place of love rather than judgement, a place of acceptance and a willingness to learn. A place of active participation and a choice to live in the moment.
Sometimes sitting in that spotlight is terrifying. The day I felt my face go splotchy as his eyes seemed to see straight through me certainly was; but in the same breath it was electrifying and one of those moments I think about often. Be this gift to those around you. Let yourself be seen and by doing so allow others the opportunity to be found and met exactly where they are. Make the choice to be active, make the choice to feel alive, make the choice to be present in your life, make the choice to keep your door unlocked.
We have two ears.
We have one mouth.
Let’s use them in proportion.