Despite being among the increasing number of those who do not attend church with any regularity, I read with great interest in my Sunday morning paper about the disappearance of religious and spiritual conversations in our culture.
Author Jonathan Merritt explained that Google has the data on millions of books which show that, not only is our language from these types of discussions going away, but words like kindness and love are being used less too. I sat up in bed. I think relaxing on the weekend can involve highlighters, so I grabbed the nearest one on my nightstand to mark key points on the newsprint between sips of my tea.
With more Americans identifying themselves as having no religious affiliation, this change in our speech may come as no surprise. What surprised me was that I cared so much about it.
I realized it wasn’t just the words going away that bothered me. It was the conversations.
One of my most requested workshops as an executive coach is on how to have courageous conversations. Regardless of their professional successes, countless conversations are not had by even the most skilled communicators. The project manager who doesn’t give feedback to her lead. The young lawyer who doesn’t ask his spouse to help with the housework. The struggling physician who doesn’t ask for break from a grueling schedule.
I get it. It’s hard for me too.
The ability to say what needs to be said has never been easy. Our brains go into “fight or flight” mode at the thought of being vulnerable. When we fear the loss of anything that matters to us from a relationship to our status in the workplace, it can be terrifying.
This week I noticed how small my scariest conversations were:
“Yesterday was rough for you. I’m sorry that I was so self-absorbed that I didn’t take even a minute to see how you were doing.”
“I’m embarrassed. I don’t know whether or not I sent that invoice two months ago.”
“Can you give me a glue gun lesson? I don’t know how to use it.”
My fears? That I would be feel my shame, that others would see me as incompetent, that I was a disappointment. Each of us has different fears, but no human escapes them.
The cost of not having critical conversations is, of course, is enjoyment, relationship, peace of mind, and often our own integrity.
My rewards this week?
My co-worker knowing she matters.
A check on its way.
Increased confidence that I’m not completely incapable of crafting.
As keyboards and texts stand in for the human voice, acronyms and choppy messages replace our hearing of apology, exuberance, and anxiety. With our eyes looking into our phones instead of into the windows of the souls of others, we have less information for continuing the conversation. Our heartfelt compassion for the death of a friend’s loved one is shown in a quarter inch yellow emoticon on a screen.
If we don’t start talking we are going to forget how. So while our vocabulary of the past may be changing, I want to be among those who uses the words she has. It may not be on Sunday morning at church, but there’s all week long to talk in between.
Are you spending more time looking at screens that you want?
Which face to face conversations make you anxious?
Is there one small but meaningful conversation you can have today?