Cruising is a lesson in relationship development. The ship that we are on that houses 60 couples for two weeks has become an intimate space. I have observed a few things that are notable.
When we join a couple for dinner, formal pleasantries begin. “Where are you from?” “Have you ever been on a river cruise before?” “Are you retired?” The conversation dance begins, but sometimes it doesn’t. As the chatter goes deeper, the couple starts telling us stories and even hijacking any empty space in the verbal exchange. Being skilled in how a conversation should flow, I got annoyed and shut down not wanting to share. I find the couple extremely boring and decide to avoid them on subsequent meal sharing events. I have decided that people who are interesting are interested. If a question is not asked in the first five minutes of a conversation, I desire to move on.
When I was raising my children, I used to play a game that illustrates this further. When they were toddlers, I would sit across from one of them on the floor and roll a ball to them as their legs were open. They would roll it back to me. Anticipation and giggling would ensue. After a while of this serve and return adventure, I would withhold the ball and not roll it back. This made them frustrated, confused and even angry. Several times, I would watch them lose interest and find something else to catch their attention. We played this game into their elementary school years. Now when I withheld the ball, they would verbalize their frustration and tell me to roll it back. I taught them at that stage of their development about the dance of conversation and communication. You roll the ball, I roll it back and so it goes. When they were adolescents and did not share how they were feeling with me, I helped them recall the game we used to play. I told them that when they did not share, I felt like they were withholding the ball. This example operationalized how I was feeling when they did not talk to me and let me into their young lives.
Many people are impressed by stories and one’s ability to communicate but asking questions and listening for answers is even more impressive. Throwing the ball in a serve and return fashion, makes the communication dance have a sense of equality, mutuality and even elegance.
One can discipline themselves to become better listeners by practicing. The next time you are with others experiment with only listening and asking questions. When someone asks about you, try to answer simply without elaborating and using superlatives to make your point. Be intentional to take the relationship deeper.
Being a brilliant speaker is a great goal, but being an active listener is as well. It taps into our common humanity to be heard, to be known and to feel understood. It is sensitive and compassionate to be interested in others. Remember to be interesting, you must be interested. For more information contact email@example.com or go to www.myrelationshipcenter.org.
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