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The art of conversation

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the art of conversation and the art of listening.

Through my work as a story collector I have a lot of conversations, it’s integral to the work I do. And yes, as you’d expect, I do a lot, A LOT, of listening.

On my walk this morning I was listening to a podcast and I was struck by a particular word.

That word was ‘behold’. It’s a word you don’t hear very often, and yet, it’s a wonderful word to describe what happens for a deep and true human connection to be made. As I do with a lot of words, I looked up its meaning to really grasp it. I particularly like these definitions - "to see with attention”; “If you behold someone or something you see them”; “Behold is to know, see, understand, recognise, comprehend, appreciate”.

When I’m engaged in my work, the conversations that make me walk away feeling energised are the ones where the person feels seen. There is great power in being seen and feeling seen, but equally, there is great disempowerment in not feeling seen.

Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling drained? I know I have, and it’s usually when someone has talked at me, not with me. I need not have even been there. They didn’t see me, in the true and real sense of the word.

I believe the art of conversation is being willing to really be with someone. And when we are really with someone, we are listening not just with our ears, but with our eyes, our body, our souls. When we do this, we really see the other person and that person can feel us seeing them. And that’s when magic happens.

I get goosebumps when someone is feeling seen by me. And when the person is seeing me also, I feel in that moment, we are seeing deep into each other’s souls. This is a deep and true human connection right there.

Photo credits: Andrew Wilson

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