The Lost Art of Conversation

You are in line at the store. What do you do? More than likely you are checking your phone or playing Temple Run until it is your turn. What happened to conversations?

Mallory Bower and I had a chat a week or so ago about the lack of conversing skills in our peers, our field, and in the general population of this country. This led to each of us creating a little challenge amongst the two of us; no cell phones, no radio, no books, no distractions while in public.

For me this challenge meant two hours each day on the NYC subway awkwardly people watching…for a week. Day one was interesting. I noticed things I hadn’t before; men and women wearing sunglasses (um…you are in the SUBWAY underground), older folks with their eyes closed, young folks with music so loud I could hear what Ke$ha was um…singing?, and those like me – watching everyone. I was thinking, “What would that person who just made eye contact do if I started a convo with them?” They were probably thinking, “Shoot, please don’t talk to me.” or “WHATCHU LOOKING AT?!”

This is what Mallory and I discussed back and forth in an e-mail chain, amongst about 6 other possible blog posts.

We’ve forgotten how to talk to one another.

Now I know the phone in hand, the ear buds in, or the book opened are basic self defense measures to keep someone curious like me away from starting conversation. The entire week that I left myself without a guard to avoid these conversation attacks was uneventful. There was no one wanting to have conversation at 8 a.m. on the train. There was no one wanting to have a conversation at 5 p.m. on the train.

The first day I was able to have my book in hand again, I was relieved. This surprised me. I was relieved to not have to be on the lookout for any potential conversations. I was relieved that I could venture back to the pages and be in a different world rather than in a mysteriously scented E train subway car.

What I’ve come to realize is that we haven’t forgotten how to have a conversation, we’ve simply stopped wanting to have them.

I wish I had a photo of this ad in the subway but it sums up what we have become perfected.

“The best part about having a smartphone is never having to call anyone.”

Perhaps why I see more about smartDEVICES rather than smartPHONES. Phones mean calling. Devices mean anything other than calling.

Try it. Go a week with no distractions in public. See if you find yourself wanting to start conversation or if you find yourself anxious about the fact that you have no defense against someone starting a conversation with you.

For a much more eloquent rant about this phenomenon, check this article that Mallory shared with me: 21 Day Challenge: No Phone in the Company of Others.

Thanks for reading.

(If you enjoyed this post, I strongly encourage you to check out this post from Mallory Bower as a follow-up)

The Humble Brag

so you like to humblebrag

The humble brag.

You know what I’m talking about. It rears it’s ugly head in the form of something like this;

“Just selected to speak at the You’re Awesome Conference. #humblebrag”

“Lastest blog post has over 15,000 views!! #humblebrag”

The point of this post is to tell you one thing. Knock it off!

Now…allow me to explain. This humble brag business sounds and comes off as wanting, no, NEEDING validation for our successes no matter how big or small. Knock it off!

Listen. Chances are if you feel the need to put humble brag in front of something or at the end of the something, you are already doing something that is above and beyond what is expected. Why feel the need to be humble about it? Seriously. If I finish all the races I plan to run this summer (AROO!) do you seriously think I’m going to tweet out, “Hey, just finished a Spartan Race with my best time. #humblebrag”? Heck no! I accomplished MY goal. I ran MY race. Nothing to be humble about and actually something to be very proud about.

The humble brag.

It is a complex aspect of having a digital identity isn’t it? You don’t want to get a reputation for bragging about what you’ve accomplished lately but you also want to let people know something you are proud of. Quite the pickle. Here’s how to avoid the notion that you need to downplay your achievements.

1) Ask, “Do I really need to share this?”
Now, this may sound contradictory but not everything really needs to be shared in a public forum that you feel proud of. If you really want to share it because you just can’t control your excitement, e-mail your inner circle, your board of trustees, your confidence architects. There isn’t a need to get on a soapbox with a megaphone and announcement it (remember that’s what Twitter gives you).

2) Be selective.
If you find yourself doing nothing but sharing accomplishments online, then you run the risk of being a braggart and coming off as narcissistic. If you sandwich the fact that you just got selected for a national committee with “Just finished the most amazing sandwich I made myself” and “Laundry for the day done. I feel so accomplished” then what value are you really giving that committee announcement?

3) Own it.
You did something that got you excited enough to want to scream it from the rooftops. Own it. Don’t downplay it. Don’t be ashamed of it. OWN IT! Just remember, somethings are better shared with your confidence architects versus everyone in your Twittersphere or Facebook connections.

4) Share it.
“But you just told me not to share everything! Joe, this blog is confusing!” What I mean by share it, is use your accomplishment as a springboard for someone else to share theirs.

“Just finished my first 10 mile race!! What was your first race like?”
“Woo! Happy to say I earned an A on my final. What are you working towards these days?”

This allows you to share your excitement for your accomplishment but it opens the door for someone who may be shy about talking about themselves or their accomplishments.

If you can’t be confident and proud in your accomplishments, how can we expect our students to be?

The humble brag.

Knock it off!

This post coincides with one by Mallory Bower which is linked through the word “confidence architects” in this post.