Stop settling for shitty communication.
Stop settling for shallow conversations.
Stop playing games in trying to figure out what someone really means.
Just ask them. Just ASK them.
We’re all people who came up in a society where emotional expression has been stigmatized, minimized, avoided and judged.
It’s been shamed out of us for being too…sensitive, girly, ridiculous, stupid, emotional.
I just sat in a circle of several strangers tonight.
We came together with a similar intention and semi-secret hopes for connection.
Not just connection…deep connection.
And not just deep connection…really deep connection.
I guided them to stare into each other’s eyes. Not in a romantic sense. In a human sense. Like actually stop and look *into* someone. Not just someone…a stranger.
After just one round of eye gazing, I watched people’s bodily signs of anxiety, awkwardness and tension ease.
Clenched hands shake loose.
Crossed legs unwind.
Crossed arms fall with gravity.
After just two rounds of eye gazing, I watched them lock into each other, truly seeing the depth of this human in front of them.
I asked them to share what their experiences were.
Each was a direct reflection of the state of their heart in that moment.
Some felt intrigued.
Some felt loved.
Some felt heartbroken.
Others admitted that they were having trouble getting into their body…really feeling here with us.
As the night went on, we played “Hot Seat,” a game where all the attention falls on one person and the rest of us got to ask them questions for, in this case, ten straight minutes. At first each person fidgets uncomfortably in their seats with an accompanied, “Oh Boyyyy.” And then they get quietly excited and nervously avoid admitting that they actually want to go first.
One gentleman immediately made us aware that we wanted us to keep him honest if he started to deflect answering a questions, particularly pointed ones. He wanted to truly feel vulnerable, like he left it all out there and didn’t hold back.
One woman thanked us profusely for our attention on her and for listening so lovingly. She shut down soon after consumed in worry that we weren’t using the time we had together efficiently for our questions and was concerned that she was boring us and taking up too much space and time. I asked her if she wanted to share more of how she was feeling and her immediate reply was, “Ohhh God yes pleasssssse! Thank you soooo much! Thank youuuuu!”
Another woman said that she wanted to feel truly changed by this experience, too, like the other woman had experienced. She assured us that she trusted us to bring the heat. By the end, she said this was the first time she’d experienced truly being listened to without having to compete to interject her thoughts before someone else jumped in and interrupted. She said it was the first time in years that she actually felt heard. The FIRST time in Y-E-A-R-S.
We witnessed another woman slowly and distinctly arrive into her body right before our very eyes. Her shoulders softened. Her face lit up. Her smile brightened as if she truly could feel that smile instead of utilizing it as a defense mechanism. She thanked us for creating a place where she could finally let her guard down for the first time in three weeks. Three…weeks.
As we closed out the night, I asked if there were any final questions before we closed out the circle.
The first question was: Do we really have to wait two weeks until the next meetup?
The second question was: Where can we get more of this in the meantime?
My unexpected answer to them was this:
What became so very apparent during our time together was that we were all ACHING for this type of connection. It was right beneath the surface. Right there to be cracked open, invited to the surface and shared amongst no-longer-strangers.
We wait for someone else to be vulnerable first so then we know we’re safe to share as well.
Problem is, we’ve all been waiting a long ass time.
So long, in fact, that we’re settling for clogged arteries, autoimmune diseases and addictions instead of talking with each other.
Because we’re all afraid of the same thing:
“If I share how I’m *really* feeling or who I *really* am, someone might judge/blame/hurt me for it.”
Here’s the thing though: We’ve already experienced the worst of it.
We’ve already experienced that heart-wrenching judgement from our best friend.
We’ve already been shamed by our parents for being different than they wanted us to be.
We’ve already been exiled from that group of friends.
We’ve already been betrayed by our lover.
If we’re all fearing the same thing…
If we’re all aching to truly share ourselves…
If we’re all so incredibly unexpressed from our cores…
Then why not go first?
We literally have nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain.
We have love to gain.
We have connection to gain.
We have adoration to gain.
We have reminders that we’re not alone to gain.
We have intense, deep healing to gain.
We humans are incredibly ego-centric to think that we’re so alone in our experiences of life, love, hardship, sadness, pain, jealousy, confusion and hurt.
The minute you say your shit out loud, I promise it’ll be closely followed by an “Oh my God…me too.”
So, again, I remind you: Go first.
Going first means you might experience sweaty pits, awkward silences and brush-offs.
People honest-to-God have no idea what to do with this at first. That’s how foreign genuine connection is.
You WILL have blank stares.
You WILL have people completely avoid the question (and eye contact for that matter).
You WILL have people look at you like you are straight up out of your mind for asking how they’re really doing (How dare you?!).
And then you’ll have a face stare back at you in complete shock that you didn’t just ask the empty, “How are you?” and not actually care. Then they smile. They’re smiling because you actually give a shit about their existence. And then you learn something about another human. Most likely what they’ll choose to share will in some way reflect what matters to them most. Things like family, friends, learning, humor and love. And then you’ll realize that you value the same things, too.
Wow. That. Yes. That.
Because I want to support you in experiencing these moments for yourself, I want to pass along some of my favorite questions to gift another human with.
Does it require you to be brave? Yes.
Does it require you to potentially be the “weird” one? Yup.
Does it require you to step outside your comfort zone? Absolutely.
Will it be worth it? I’ll leave you to decide.
Here are some easy conversation starters that are my “go-to’s” in everyday moments:
“What’s the best part of your day so far?”
“What lights you up these days?”
“What’s good in your world?”
If you want a level deeper, go for these:
“How’s your heart?”
“If you had to describe your day/week in three feelings, what would they be?”
“What’s it like to be you right now?”
If you want to go even deeper, here are some:
“What stands between us right now?”
“What’s the last thing you want me to know about you?”
“What expectations of this moment do you have right now that’s stopping you from being fully present with me?”
I use these on dates.
I use these with friends.
I use these with strangers.
Because at the end of the day, we are humans beings having a friggin’ complex, confusing, fun, really tough and amazing, exhilarating, bitchin’ time here on this planet.
Sooooo, why not talk about it?