Saturday, June 7, 2008

Deep and Wide

Communication is essential to social life. (I know, profound stuff isn’t it?) Interpersonal connection is a relatively natural thing for me most of the time. Reminded just recently that this is not always the case, I recognize the danger in taking the skills involved for granted. Still, I am not often misunderstood (note the difference between “mis-“ and “fully” as they relate to “understood”). I consider myself intuitive and creative enough to make situational communication matches. But, where I am inclined to go with my communication, the natural direction/destination for me… “aye, there’s the rub.”

I was chatting with a good friend a few weeks ago. After asking me some difficult questions, fully expecting careful answers, he commented about the level at which I had been thinking the situation through. “Funny, the truth is I haven’t had a chance to give it much thought until just now,” I commented. He jumped to another topic altogether. I tracked with him for a couple of minutes and then, without thinking, somehow connected the conversation back to the earlier depth. The safety I feel in our friendship, his concern, and his questions had commissioned a journey that wasn’t, for me, complete—a journey most would never have started in the first place (not without a good deal of prodding). Though the idea challenges my natural proclivity, I recognize not every journey is completed in a day— not every purchase is made with a single payment.

I caught myself and grinned. “You know what? I think I just figured out why we get along so well. You allow me to go deeper and I have no problem with you pulling the conversation back up to the surface.” In fact, we’ve come to expect it from one another. He laughed, “are you saying I’m shallow?” “Absolutely not.” I explained that the way I am inclined to process, the tendency I have in conversation is to take it deeper and deeper— to hold to one topic or any relative association, break it down to its DNA and/or consider its connections to larger contexts. It is the way I think. He is broader. When I share conversation with him, we are much more likely to cover a wider spectrum of topics— anything from politics to personal struggles, music to mechanical engineering, football to friendships. We may talk about these things only as they relate to a moment in time. I love it. More than abiding these tendencies in one another, I believe we value them, balancing ourselves against them. But, our friendship is unique and I am thankful for the awareness this discovery has afforded me as it bears on other relationships.

More than once over the course of the conversation, we inadvertently traded places. I drew on random connections and shifted topics freely. He connected the dialogue back to earlier, deeper thoughts. We caught ourselves doing it. Very entertaining. “See, we’re rubbing off on each other. Maybe I’m learning the joy of a broader conversational surface area and I’ll just leave the depth to you.” On the other hand, looking back over today’s blog entry... maybe not.