My husband Tom and I were recently chatting and he was telling me about how he had been describing me to his new co-workers. One man said his girlfriend is pretty shy and Tom replied with, “My wife can talk to anyone for an hour whether they are 5 or 90.” I lit up hearing him say that, even though he didn’t think much of it. In a single moment I became aware of this amazing talent that I never realized I possessed. I really can sit and talk to just about anyone for an hour and love every single minute of it. When I shared this story on TikTok I had a lot of people asking how it was so easy for me. I’ve had some time to mull it over and I’ve put together my 5 best tips — heads up, this isn’t some BS fluff post — this is real hardcore truth.
Everyone is talking about you!
Have you ever stopped to realize just how many people aren’t walking around actually caring about one another? I mean, this is something motivational speakers spout off all the time. “People aren’t thinking about you, they’re thinking about themselves.”
I’ve always kind of had a beef with that quote, to be honest, because the truth is people care a lot about other people. Like a lot a lot.
Who’d you vote for?
Did you see what she was wearing on the beach?
Oh my gosh, did you hear what he did?
No matter where you go there is no shortage of people gossiping and filling their precious time on earth talking about other people and honestly, it’s rarely nice stuff. People are most definitely talking about you…just like you talk about other people.
Why do the motivational gurus spout this stuff off then? Because even though so many people will go about their days talking about other people behind their backs, the truth is it is all usually coming from a self-serving agenda.
The self-serve agenda
You want to know who people vote for to see if they think like you. Then maybe you’ll go into a panic that you voted for the wrong person — or use this as an excuse to determine that they are a person whose moral standpoints must be different than your own, therefore you have nothing in common.
You want to point out what she was wearing on the beach because, well, it’s not something you would wear. Can we all just take a minute to agree….who cares? When you are triggered or annoyed by something someone else is wearing…that’s still all about you. Dive into it. Figure out what emotions it’s hitting. That’s on you. Not the other person.
You want to talk about what he did because…well, I don’t know, why do you? Do you feel superior if what you feel another person did is somehow beneath you? Are you just hiding from your own life? I think it would have to be that one for me.
We’re being honest here, right?
I’m not going to act like I have never once talked about someone else behind their back. In fact, I have spent an obscene amount of my time on earth caring far too much about what other people were doing and talking about how they were conducting their lives. Most likely the reason behind it was because it was much easier to talk about other people’s perceived shortcomings than it was to look myself in the mirror and admit all of the stuff I wasn’t taking action on in my own life.
Other people’s movement tends to make us hyper-aware of our stagnation and in an attempt to justify our lack of action, we simply talk shit about others.
So yeah, you care about you
I guess what I’m saying is that, yeah, at the end of the day we are all pretty concerned with protecting ourselves and our ego.
Here’s the thing about me though:
- I have not always been good at talking to people
- I have been actively fighting my ego for close to a decade
Here’s what it has taught me about speaking to other people.
How many times have you gone to a party and tried talking to someone only to have your head fill with thoughts like,
“Oh my gosh, I hope my breath doesn’t smell bad.”
“I have no idea what to say.”
“I’m so awkward.”
This used to happen to me all the time and if you’re anything like I once was you sat there being so damn nervous about how you were being perceived by the other person that you barely heard a word that they were saying.
I remember reading in Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence, and in the book she mentions that without realizing it, anxiety can make us extremely self-centered people.
Now, I know no one wants to be self-centered and anxiety is a tough gig to kick. However, reading her words kind of made me realize just how true this was. Whenever I found myself lost in a thought spiral, I am instantly transported out of the moment and my consciousness is so lost in my mind concerned with whatever new thing I have found to concern myself with.
What am I getting at? The first step to learning to talk to anyone is to have a genuine desire to get to know them. This, however, requires that we willingly un-occupy our own mind for the time being. It means we release our own inner fears about not being good enough long enough to experience another person and who they are…and not judge them while we do.
Releasing your story
We all grew up learning how the world should be, what is right or wrong to believe and never stopped to question the fact that we learned all of these things who simply regurgitated the information down to us through their bloodline and life experience.
Spoiler alert: no one in the history of the world actually knew what the hell they were doing, they just made up shit as they went along and then handed down that made up stuff to their ancestors, AKA you.
The late Bob Proctor referred to this as a our paradigm. Actually, good ‘ol Bob didn’t coin that term, but he is the one I learned it from so I’m gonna go ahead and give him credit.
Our paradigm is a grouped set of rules and beliefs that we have deemed to be true about the world around us. These rules might be:
- The earth is round (years ago someone would have died fighting to prove it was flat)
- You have a good chance of developing heart disease since it runs in your family
- Marriage should be between a man and a woman (These aren’t my beliefs…let’s be clear. Just using it as a demonstration.)
This paradigm of ours can seem genuinely harmless (or be causing us to carry around some serious biases toward other people). No matter what the case they are most definitely dictating our story and when we insist on holding onto our story, we instantly close ourselves off to the stories of others.
Imagine a book remaining closed for the entirety of its existence. It’s true, if it stays shut no one can tamper with the words that are written within the book. No one can challenge it. However, the book will ultimately have been a waste never being seen, read or appreciated by anyone.
So what if we all just agreed to release our stories. To share them with the world while also remaining open to the fact that somewhere along the way, someone might alter our story.
My story has been altered
Let me tell you, I had to face some major story altering back in 2014 when I first started reading spiritual self help books. I was forced to go head to head with the story I had grown up believing about the world around me.
“Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.” was a quote I heard often from Wayne Dyer who I believe was quoting Tilopa.
When we release our story and our desire to become hardened in our ideals, we open ourselves up to experiencing new stories without judgement or fear. Doing this is key to truly allowing ourselves to not only hear the words of another person, but to truly listen to what they say, which brings me to my next point.
Listening not hearing
I remember when I was a kid someone (probably a lot of people) told me I wasn’t a good listener, that I interrupted all the time. The truth is, I just so badly wanted to be heard. My brain was (and still is) a constant chatterbox filled with thoughts and ideas — now I get them out in the form of blog posts and podcasts where no one can interrupt me. How perfect.
When I was a kid, however, I remember the strenuous effort I put into not even listening to people but just holding back my own thoughts.
No matter who was talking to me I would sit there with my eyes fixed on them all the while repeating in my head that thing that I really wanted to make sure got heard. Don’t forget, don’t forget, don’t forget….
Sometimes I would slip up, actually start listening to the other person and then forget the thing I so badly wanted to say. Other times, the far worse times where when we were in a group and the conversation moved on so quickly that if I were to say the thing that I kept repeating in my head I would just sound stupid now.
If you remember that’s ok. If you forget, that’s ok.
Both of these scenarios, while extremely trying, slowly conveyed the message to me that I will not in fact die if I don’t get to say every single thing that comes to my mind. Eventually this lead to me having a thought in my mind and then whispering to myself in my head, “If you remember, that’s ok. If you forget, thats OK.” And then I would proceed to listen to whomever currently had the floor.
This practice really became perfected after I became a mom. Hands up if you are a parent and all day long you have the agendas of every other family member running through your head all day — meanwhile you are still trying to manage yourself.
Yeah…I thought so. Me too.
Some days especially running my own business from home, I always had some pre-planned self agenda in my head that one of my kids would inevitably interrupt. I would nod along, tuning them out completely while trying to stay on my task at hand.
Of course, life dealt me the lesson, as it always does, that being treated this way is really shitty. After having this same experience happen to me several times I realized not giving someone the respect of truly listening to them is extremely hurtful and can so easily make another fellow human being feel like their words aren’t valuable. I don’t want to make people feel this way, especially my children.
A few years ago I made the intentional decision to pause and listen to them. No matter how busy my brain felt. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I say, “Honey, I’m sorry, I can’t listen right now, my brain is too busy.” After I finish my task, I come back to them and ask, “What did you want to tell me?” Because…I truly want to listen.
Seeing the humanity in everyone
One of the greatest lessons that I have learned is that we are all one. We are all connected in a ton of crazily twisted ways and it’s so silly to think of ourselves as separate from one another.
Here we are together, sharing the human experience and yet not wanting to see one another’s humanity.
The trees in the woods have been proven to have their own form of communication. When one tree falls, the rest don’t gradually shift their roots away from their fallen brother. Yet we are willing to bash the hell out of someone because they like a different toilet paper than we do. (I mean, that’s a pretty harsh example…but I would also be willing to bet it has happened more than once.)
At the core of everyone we want 4 things:
- Love and connection
- Notoriety and a feeling of importance
- Change and new experiences
- Consistency and stability
Like the Bible says, the greatest of these is love.
However, I can’t help but feel like when we so badly want love for ourselves, we sort of go out looking for ways to siphon it, to make sure we get our fair share and in doing so we give none away to our fellow man.
We go around talking about those who we believe are ruining our world, those who are doing harm and causing pain and I know, in our current world surrounded by news reports, it can feel hard to ignore. But how many small moments of love and compassion right in our own backyard are we missing while directing our attention on all the shortcomings of people we have never even met? We may not be causing the hurt ourselves, but we sure aren’t adding to the solution either.
Embracing the humanity in yourself
Lastly, and maybe most importantly….firstly?
It’s time to embrace the humanity within yourself.
You’ve fucked up. Sorry. You have. Me too. Countless ways. The thing is, I’ve chosen not to focus on them anymore.
I used to think that would serve me somehow, that if I forgave myself I would somehow be letting myself off the hook or saying my wrongdoings were OK.
The truth is mistakes are a part of that humanity. That stubborn side of me that pushes my husbands hand out of the way when he tries to intervene with my cooking…that’s part of my humanity. Sure, I’m working on it, but I don’t need to shame myself for it every second of the day. Chances are I would be a lot less likely to improve myself if all I did were focus on my shortcomings.
Embrace the dark parts of you and allow them to intermingle with the light parts.
Oh, those light parts, it’s OK to be proud of them. You are pretty amazing. It’s not vanity to love yourself. To love a work of art is to also show love and appreciation for the creator of that art. Imagine how you feel when you listen to your favorite song. You honor the writer and singer of that song whenever you do. Just the same, no matter what your religious background or faith, when you look in the mirror and feel a love for the reflection, you are honoring the place from which you came.
When you can do this, you can begin to do the same for everyone else you meet, and talking to them will only feel like an extension of that love.