‘Who was that person?’
Who did you meet recently who made you feel glad to be alive? Who made you laugh out loud? Who shared something with you that made you want to do more / learn more? Perhaps they shared an experience, an insight, a book or a film, or even a dream they had last night? Like the lady in the cheese shop who told me that she had dreamt she was cutting cheese. In her dream she could feel the texture of the cheese as she was cutting. "That's unusual", she said.
‘I just met a wonderful girl / guy…’
I’ve been meeting a lot of new people, recently. I can’t help noticing there are some people I am really glad to have met. They leave a warm impression. I think about them next day, and the day after. I tell my friends about them. And there are others, who, though I spent time with them, I just didn’t meet.
Block Button Blues
The people I didn’t meet are ‘the blockers’. There are at least two types of blockers: conscious and unconscious. The conscious blockers don’t ask, or tell, because they don't need to. They know everything. The unconscious blockers are not aware that they could ask, but they do like to tell. Conscious blockers have their block button permanently set to 'On'. Unconscious blockers talk ‘at me’ about themselves, until I can find an excuse to move on. I prefer not to use the block button, if I can possibly avoid it.
It’s all about connecting
The reason why I am thinking about good and bad conversations, is that I am learning to be an executive coach. One of the things I have learned is that coaches don’t need tools and techniques. The key to being an effective coach is to focus on what is happening in the space between the coach and the coachee. Coaches have to be fully present, and be willing to disclose their thoughts and feelings, provided they do this in the service of their clients' learning. It’s all about connecting.
Some of my best conversations recently have been with complete strangers: a very cool Jamaican grandfather, who I met with his daughter, and granddaughters, in the queue for David Hockney at the Royal Academy; a funny, original Turkish businesswoman on a flight from Istanbul to London; a straight-talking Scottish fundraiser in Oxford who, like me, loves St Andrews in Scotland. There was a kind of energy and openness between us that made the time pass quickly.
You can’t expect to connect with everyone you meet, I hear you say. And yet, one of my beliefs is that it is important to be curious about the people around you. You never know who they are, what they do, or who they know. You don’t know what opportunities there might be for something new and good to come out of conversation with this person. You might learn something. You might be able to help each other in some way. Or you might just spend a few very pleasant moments in a queue, on a plane, or a train. And days, or months, or years later, find yourself remembering.