Pushing beyond your comfort zone
I am an introvert. While I love engaging conversations with people I know on topics I enjoy, I always find social interaction with strangers difficult. Polite social conversation, or ‘small talk’, is something I dread. Quite often, my inclination is to seek solitude and pursue my own interests undisturbed by ‘the need’ to talk to others.
Self-development requires pushing outside one’s comfort zone – this applies to talking too!
Communication is a basic need we all must fulfil to be healthy and happy. Each of us will have found, through experience, the right balance between engaging others in conversation and navigating our own thoughts. Over recent years, my increasing level of self-awareness gradually changed my attitude towards talking. This change has had a significant impact on my ability to develop new ideas through “exploratory talking” – engaging with others to trigger self-development through interacting critically but constructively with each other’s ideas.
Piecing the puzzle together
Imagine the idea you are trying to develop is a jigsaw puzzle. You are consciously aware of some of the pieces, others lie deep within you, others still haven’t come to you at all. By talking to other people you collect more pieces and complete the puzzle step-by-step. Gradually you will see the whole picture clearly.
By talking to others with an open mind you will expand your own mind.
Do you find it difficult or unrewarding to engage people in conversation “just to see what you can learn”? Perhaps some of the following tips will help you:
- Create a habit – It may sound a bit silly, but committing to speaking to 2-3 people a week on a topic you have never covered before with them will soon expand your knowledge in areas you had never foreseen.
- Speak to strangers – A lot has been written about the mental health benefits of talking to strangers. For me, it’s simply a combination of low risk exposure (after all, you will probably never see the person again) and high potential outcome (you might just speak to the person who will trigger a key change in your life).
- Publish your ideas – Publishing your ideas, particularly on social media, will expose them to a large audience, including some people who will be triggered into responding. Their responses can initiate conversations which will help you develop your thinking.
- Grab opportunities – When someone you don’t know reaches out, grab the opportunity to interact. Again, this is particularly true on social media – next time you receive an invitation to become a ‘friend’ or a ‘connection’, accept the invitation then follow-up with a short note suggesting some exploratory talking.
Talking is one of the ways in which we express our thoughts and feelings. This is powerful for the person talking of course, yet even more powerful in shaping the world.
Every time you speak you create a reality.
By speaking you have an opportunity to listen to yourself, to structure and self-critique your ideas. In your speech you also name concepts or ideas that were perhaps diffuse – by naming them you confer individuality and power, you make them easier to share, you create blocks for you or others to build upon. These building blocks are the basis for the reality you create… a reality which will be taken by others as a representation of what you believe in. You will find some areas of common ground and some areas of disagreement. This debate will lead you to both influencing and being influenced by others. Creating reality in other words…
Even when engaging in exploratory talk, be mindful of the impact of the words you use and the ideas you express. And be mindful of the power of not saying anything. Here’s a quote to inspire you in finding this balance:
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”Benjamin Franklin
So, are you tempted to try exploratory talking more often? Call a friend on a topic not discussed before… or speak to a stranger on something you are passionate about. Who knows what you may learn?
Find this article interesting? Read more of my conscious living stories.