I knew this was going to be a dynamic conversation where I wanted to listen more than speak.
My dear friend Arthur, is a living encyclopaedia. He is one of these very few people who is able to store information and bring it to light in a rich and enlightening manner in a conversation. Such a pleasure.
I invited Arthur to meet me at the Restaurante Quillo Bar in the heart of the Sant Pere quarter in Barcelona.
We sat outside, in their small terrace, so we could also observe the pedestrians passing by on that hot Friday afternoon.
Arthur and I worked together when I was writing my first book, Leading in High Heels. He was my proofreader and also helped to contextualise some of the topics I wanted to bring. It was an amazing experience where I learned a lot from him.
Saying that, I wanted to focus my conversation with Arthur around the topic of communication, of course . Specifically, "how we, humans, are communicating with each other these days". More precisely, I want to know his experience about the "lack" of communication I believe we humans are developing, which leads to awful misunderstandings. And, I also feel we are distancing ourselves from each other without really noticing it…
But, before getting started, we had to place our order.
I ordered a caña (a draft beer), and Arthur asked for a Gin Tonic (uhuuu, the conversation is going to be animated )
Arthur ordered a Mollete de calamar amb maionesa kimchi (calamares with mayonnaise Kimchi in a baguette).
I ordered some Croquetes de pernil ibèric (Iberian Ham croquettes) and Calamars a l'andalusa amb maionesa de kimchi (squid in a Andalusian style).
By the way, do you know the difference between calamares a la romana and calamares a la andaluza? Calamares a la Romana use eggs with the battered flour, a La Andaluza don't 😉 Now you know.
I started the conversation by asking him, "Arthur, I miss the opportunity of having deep conversations with people. I feel people want to communicate in a superficial manner only. I feel they don't want to engage in conversations where they have to expose their own view about things… And I'm using I feel becauseI have the impression that most people are ok with it, that they don't share my uneasiness… What is your experience?"
He just smiled and said, "maybe people don't have strong views about life in general"...
"Hummm, what do you mean? That people are somehow in autopilot mode?" I asked.
"Yes, we could say that. Beyond all the familiar critiques of social media, particularly Twitter, which operate against any sort of nuanced conversation, the truly negative effect is that people’s attention spans are getting so much shorter. I read recently that some people no longer have the patience to read a book. They just get bored. It’s like everybody is developing attention deficit disorder at the same time. Things nowadays move too fast, and people don't really give themselves time to stop, think, decide what they want to do for themselves. They go with the flow…"
"Well, I agree", I said. "I also believe we all go through such a process in certain times of our lives, but… we can't live in an autopilot mode for too long because it will lead to disastrous consequences, we know that."
"Yes, we know that", he said, "but, ask people to spare time to think and plan strategically about their own lives, so they will know the next steps to take, and many will reply that they don't have time…"
"And, when you don't have time, better said, when you don't give yourself time to look at your own life, decide what matters to you, what you want to achieve, you are definitely not giving yourself the opportunity to develop your own values, strengths and have a position about what happens around you…" I commented.
My croquetas arrived (I croquetas). Arthur didn't want to join me, and I didn't insist 😉.
"To take stands in life requires growing up as adults. That is a conscious decision, but many people aren’t even aware that it’s a decision to be made", said Arthur. “They prefer instead simply to avoid any sort of conflict.”
His statement reminded me of something I learned a while ago. Stephen R. Covey, in his famous book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, claims that we all go through three levels of self-development: dependence, independence, and interdependence (I recorded a video about it. You can watch it here).
We are all born dependent: from our parents to help us survive. Then, from our teachers, to educate us and help us to integrate in groups. As we grow up and evolve, we become independent. We can say that one of the first signals of when we "declare ourselves" independent is when we become financially independent.
However, as we grow up, and evolve, it doesn't necessarily mean that all our faculties as human beings evolve at the same level. For example, we might become financially independent, while being totally dependent emotionally, and psychologically.
And, following Mr. Covey's approach, our utmost achievement in our evolution would be to become interdependent. However, to get there, we have to achieve independence, not only financially, but also, and even more importantly, emotionally and psychologically.
Because, achieving interdependence means that we know we are whole, independent. And, we also know that in this life we will always be dependent on other people at different levels. Nevertheless, when we become interdependent we are open to joining forces with others not from a place of lack, but from a place of abundance. Because we know that together, our wholeness will expand.
To achieve greatness, to reach our full potential, we need to reach the interdependence state first. Because it is when we are aware of our wholeness, our potential, and also aware that we don't need, and never will, know everything, or possess every knowledge, capabilities, within ourselves. Our greatness is reached when we join forces with others.
By this time, we had finished our tapas. We didn't feel like having coffee. I asked for the bill and we continued with the conversation.
I told Arthur that I do believe I have reached this state in my life. I'm very open to share my views, and embrace others. I don't "fear competition", and I'm always seeking collaborations. And I'm quite happy to promote people I admire for their work, and what they are offering to the world. I see professionals who don't share their ideas with the fear of their ideas being stolen… that is really sad. I see it as a wasted opportunity for expansion.
"Maybe that is why I'm feeling the lack of deep conversations… Conversations where we can be humble, vulnerable and grow together. What do you think Arthur?"
"It could be", he said. "We have also to remember that many people have difficulties expressing themselves. This is a faculty the majority don't master. You, Tulia, have dedicated a decade helping others to improve their communication skills, and you know that. I don't have to preach to the converted."
"Indeed Arthur. So much that for the past year I've been researching on the topic of how to deal with difficult conversations. Because I do believe that when people learn how to deal with conflicts, heated discussions - something we all face many times during our lifetime - they will feel safe to express their ideas and thoughts. And then, we will be able to engage in more in-depth and meaningful conversations."
"Sure, not being able to express one's ideas clearly is a burden to many. And it can also lead to misunderstandings that maybe could've been prevented if they knew it better," commented Arthur. “But more frequently it happens that people don’t want to hear opinions that contradict their own. People get angry, which shuts down any opportunity for reasonable discussion.”
"You said it all Arthur. And this is why I continue with my mission to support people to find their voice. . And I speak from my own experience. There is a big difference between the Tulia a decade ago, afraid of speaking up, afraid of sharing her views on a subject; and the Tulia now who is willing to express her ideas when she feels it matters. And, important to say, expressing my ideas in a way that people will be willing to listen to, not imposing them. Giving a space for dialogue."
"Absolutely, Tulia. It is an art. It is a skill which requires continuous honing in. Speaking clearly and listening with an open mind and heart requires practice", concluded Arthur.
"And I'm happy to have found you to practise with Arthur." 😉