Know Them

It happens a lot. Someone will start talking to me about their life, their likes, and their dislikes and I end up asking, “Who are you?”

A coworker started talking to me about how fast their facial hair grows. That’s it. No build up to that. Just started talking about his beard (or lack thereof) out of nowhere. I told him you really ought to get to know someone first before you relate all the minute details of your life. I then introduced myself and told him my name. I don’t think he really cared about what I had to say.

I rarely see people trying to get to know each other anymore. Most people just stick with casual conversation and talk about nothing more than their interests and general opinions. Having people to talk to is a privilege. Not everyone has that opportunity. I wouldn’t want to waste time with an interesting person by talking only about my own interests.

Here are some things you should try to get to know about the people you are interested in.

Favorites: What a person likes determines how they spend their time. Asking someone what they like gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of person they are. Many relationships begin by just spending time together doing what both people love to do.

Opinions: You can’t say you know someone if you don’t know how they feel. Knowing their opinions allows you to avoid touchy subjects and to relate to them on important issues. You wouldn’t want to find out the person you’ve been spending lots of time with actually disagrees with you about the things that are most important to you.

Stories: Everybody has a story. I’m not saying you need to know every detail about the person. Details alone don’t make a story. You can say you know their story when you know how they got to be the person they are today. Ask about their adventures. Ask about the crazy characters they met along the way. People appreciate when you listen.

I could go on about all the worthwhile things to learn about the people we meet. Everyone has talents, hopes, and dreams. It would be a shame to live among people you know nothing about.

Someone recently asked me what my best friend’s eye color is. I couldn’t think of it. Years I have spent with one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and loving individuals I have ever met and I didn’t know what color her eyes are. The same eyes I looked into as she told me how much she loves her family. The eyes I saw light up when she explained all the great things she wants to accomplish in one lifetime. I felt ashamed for forgetting those blue eyes.

Knowing people comes with time, but also requires care and attention. Relationships don’t just happen. They are built. It starts by caring about the person you are with. You can’t care about someone if you don’t know who they are.

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Every Conversation Ever

Hello. How was your weekend?

We owe it to each other not to be boring. Our behavior becomes uninteresting when our actions lose variety and purpose. I see this apparent in the daily conversations I have with people. We keep hitting the same notes.

Here is what conversations with me tend to sound like lately:

Me: I generally acknowledge your presence.

You: I acknowledge your acknowledgment and am ready to begin conversation.

Me: List for me all relevant items regarding your well-being.

You: My family, friends, and work are all fine. How about you?

Me: Nothing of note at this time.

You: I’m enthusiastic about this one specific thing that is in the news.

Me: I’ve heard of this same thing. I have opinions on that.

You: Yeah, I’m pretty enthusiastic myself.

Me: But what about this other thing I found out about on the Internet?

You: Is this the thing that everyone is talking about?

Me: Yes.

You: I don’t have an opinion on that.

Me: (pause)

You: I might possibly have other things to do right now. Coincidentally, this is a good place to end the conversation.

Me: You can leave after I list a few more things I am enthusiastic about.

You: I’m listening.

Me: Movies.

You: Uh-huh.

Me: Video games.

You: Right.

Me: Music.

You: Sure.

Me: I’m now ready to leave this conversation.

You: I acknowledge I might see you at some future point.

Me: I’m not wholly opposed to that. We should have another conversation at that time.

Pretty much every conversation I have nowadays ends up following this format. Sure, people provide a little variety with their own unique personalities, but what is accomplished is basically the same. We meet each other, we say whatever is on our minds, and then we leave as politely as possible. Have we truly created anything worthwhile with this?

I recognize the majority of people I engage with are not close to me on a personal level. However, that doesn’t mean my conversations with them have to be basic and safe. I want my words to have purpose. I seek to educate people with my ideas. I wish to change their minds on certain subjects. I hope to motivate people to live out their full potential in different areas. Words can be more than just hot air escaping the body.

This was fun. We should talk again soon.