Conversation and Connection

Many years ago I was a participant in a diversity training session, and the facilitators introduced an activity called “We Connect®.”  Each of us was given a set of colored plastic links with cards that led to self-disclosing discussions.  If we found we had similarities with another group member, we clicked a link together thus forming a chain. The purpose of the exercise was to illustrate how much we have in common with others.

I have been noticing a similar conversational pattern between people.  One person will share something, and another person will then share a similar situation or experience – thus creating an “I-know-what-you-mean” scenario.

Is this a problematic habit?  Not necessarily, although I think we have to be careful:

  • Sometimes jumping in too quickly with our own story may leave the other person feeling dismissed.
  • “We Connect Talk” may be a cover-up for the bad habit called stagehogging.
  • Matching our story with the other’s story may be seen as a competitive move.
  • Speaking too quickly about our own reality may short change the new learning we might gain if we spent more time listening.

Can this conversational pattern be helpful at times?  I think so:

  • If done well, connecting stories can send the signal we’re empathetic.
  • Some people feel better when they sense there is some identification with their situation.
  • Connecting stories may lead to new insights for both parties.
  • Sharing a similar situation may actually prompt more reserved types to more fully open up.

So, how do I know if I’m being helpful or annoying? Do your homework:

  • What might be most beneficial to this person right now? Speaking? Listening? What does my gut tell me?
  • Am I taking over the conversation to fulfill my own ego needs?
  • Am I talking because I’m not comfortable in listening mode?
  • Does joining in like this make me feel needed?

One size never fits all when it comes to interpersonal relationships.  As always, take time to become an expert on the self. The best results come from self clarity.

 

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