I realized yesterday that I have not been a conversationalist lately.
Now that does not mean that I cannot talk to people, or I do not see the value in talking to people.
I always learn something when I talk to people. Often, it is something I do not know, and it is something that will be of value to me in the future.
But I am not one to ask a million questions, or go on and on about my latest encounter with a clerk at the checkout at the grocery store who wouldn’t go and check that something was on sale until I asked for her manager and then she decided that she could investigate it and actually gave me the discount I had seen on the sign before the person checking the sign had a chance to go to the aisle, see the sign and see that I was correct, and then come back to the cashier to confirm that I was correct, instead of saying to me matter-of-factly “well they come off automatically and if it didn’t come off, it must not be on sale,” which is what she had done at first until I had insisted that I had seen the sign and I knew what I had seen and she needed to give me the price on the sign regardless of what her “system” was telling her.
What I realized yesterday is I am much better at drive-by conversations.
I get fidgety and anxious if the conversation goes much beyond basic pleasantries. Now, this doesn’t mean I am insensitive, or that I do not care. But maybe I am fooling myself about how much I care.
One thing I also discovered about behavior at the SMART conference I attended this past weekend was how our brain can change over time. As neuropathways are created or destroyed, they can change the way they connect.
This can impact your ability to “feel” certain things. The fact that I once cared more about an individual’s life and “story” and now I am less attuned to that can be explained in part by how my brain has changed.
This is a discovery that shows how depression has worked its spell on me in many ways.
And the best part is I can re-train my brain to be more sensitive to others. Focusing on this will help me live in the present. Steering my brain away from the present has been depression’s idea for over 43 years.
The fact that I was able to live in the moment for two interactions with people the other day proved that I can change. It may have been a total of seven minutes between the two conversations, but it seemed like a lifetime.
This will get easier and more routine again.
I do like talking to and learning from others. I have always been outgoing and interested in learning about others. But there are times when depression gets me into “drive-by” mode. With my new tools and new experience, I can see this as a trigger, a sign that I am not 100% on my game.
Before, it was just me protecting me without seeing it was depression depriving me of a chance to interact, to charge my positive stores of energy, and learn more about others.
I have been reminded I also do “doorknob” conversations.
This is a drive-by held at the front door. I am on my way somewhere, with a deadline for being there, so this puts an automatic time limit on the conversation. I can lob a concern, a problem, something I want the other person to do, at the other person, then say “whoops, gotta go.”
This gets my idea out there without any chance that the other person may disagree with, or be able to challenge it, to ask questions about it, or possibly think I am bad because I have a bad idea.
But today it was just a few minutes of my time, just honestly listening to fellow human beings. Not listening for a pause so I can say what I want to say.
I am so pleased I was able to do it twice in one day and notice that I had done it. Even a few weeks ago, I am not sure I would have been able to tell that I was really listening.
Now I know what active listening looks like.
Going forward, I will be watching for a chance to “listen” and avoid my old, depression suggested strategies, of doorknob conversations and especially drive-by conversations.
How do you listen?