The biggest indicator of happiness is social connection. That’s what Shawn Achor told me last week. Me and 599 other people. I wrote that down in the dark and looked back on my scribbled notes a few days later. Connection and happiness – linked. Who knew?
Its odd to think that the in the career I’ve chosen most of what can come out of my mouth is usually kept for writing. Policy reports, research documents, lecture material, freelance writing. The energy it takes to extract a conversation I’ve had with myself from my head and place it on to a file in front of me is both exhausting and exhilarating all at once.
The bonus is I get to chat with myself. I usually agree back.
The National Mental Health Commission are hosting a contributing life conversation project until August 11. In the world of mental health and mental well-being we often push people to check in with each other on certain days of the year but we don’t suggest what actually extends beyond those initial awkward interchanges. When we ask who is coping OK what really happens in that space? If they say they aren’t travelling well, do we encourage them to keep going forward, do we share our own moments in life where its gotten a little hard or do we turn our backs for fear of the unknown. For fear of looking vulnerable.
I learnt from being in that space with 599 other people that sitting down next to someone and just saying hi wasn’t enough to start off a new connection, you had to ask the questions that created some meaningful chatter…. ‘what are you passionate about?’, ‘what talk was most interesting to you’ and then the big one, following up with a ‘why’ (and hanging around to listen to it).
We don’t have to be in a conference room, a lecture hall or a meeting for meaningful conversation to be had. The simple questions that we can ask people who are socially isolated, who look like today isn’t going so well for them might provide the chance for someone else to feel connected, to feel heard and to feel listened to.
A chance for both the asker and the receiver to live meaningfully; in that moment.
A conversation can create the space for sharing what we aren’t coping with and at the same time can create a sense of connection that’s useful for everyone. That’s what I know about conversations.
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Whats your top tips for creating a great conversation?