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Part 3 of my Communications Series.

Part 1                       Part 2

 

In Part 2, we talked about reaching out to others and intentionally doing so.  However, that’s just a starting point. At the start of a relationship, things tend to be around surface level: asking how the day was, talking vaguely about family, friends, and life. But to reach a deeper level more serious talks need to happen.

Once we’ve established a relationship with someone and have become friends, we can take that relationship deeper by talking about some of the bigger things in life: issues in the world and our views on them, the deeper aspects of our personalities, families, and life.

Many times, conversation will work itself around to these topics, but that doesn’t mean that we’re voicing the extent of our true views and values. A specific topic can come up several times throughout a friendship, and you’re likely to learn new insights and thoughts about each others’ views each time. Part of this comes from us changing/gaining perspectives throughout life, modifying our views and how we understand our values. But it can also come from feeling comfortable enough around someone to show them what we hold dear, deep inside.

Becoming comfortable around another person can happen in a variety of ways: it can be how someone listens or talks, it can take time and familiarity, or many other reasons that people have. The point in both parties feeling comfortable is that it breaks down walls that normally hide certain aspects of our views. These walls are built because of fears we hold. Therefore, for two people to feel comfortable around each other, we need to work at breaking down walls and fears: both in ourselves and whomever we’re hoping to connect with.

In Oneself

In order to break down our own walls, we need to know what they are, where they came from, and what they’re protecting. To know what our walls are, we have to do some self- and/or soul-searching. This can look different for each person, so I’m not going to address it in depth in this post. Many times, however, this comes from reflecting on our interactions with others and in what we decide to share with those we don’t know well.

Next, we need to look back and reflect on our lives. This includes childhood, teen years, and any other experiences we’ve had, whether with strangers, failed friendships, family, etc. With each wall we discover we have, we should take the time to find where it came from and how long we’ve had it. This leads us to the last big thing we need to know.

What am I protecting with this wall? A question we must all ask ourselves, because there is always a reason. Using an area of time the wall formed, can I find a specific memory centered around this fear? The ultimate question here is: What am I so afraid of that I won’t share it with anyone?

In Others

Breaking down our own walls is difficult, but breaking down others’ is more so. With our own walls, we can search through our own experiences and find out why they’re there and what they’re protecting. But with others, we probably don’t know them well enough for that. So we have to be patient and stick by them, waiting for the right opportunity and conversation to pull in some deeper personal questions. However, if we ask deeper questions of another we must be prepared for their questions as well.

And as I mentioned above, there are different things that help break down walls. One of the biggest things for me is someone taking the time to listen to what I have to say without interrupting. It’s someone waiting as I pause to gather my thoughts and form words, someone who doesn’t feel a need to fill the silence. If someone sits and listens, as well as shares about him/herself, I’m more inclined to share who I really am with that person.

The difficult part here is that everyone’s different. So we must be patient.

 

There are many aspects to deep conversations, but something I’ve found is that most of the time they’ll flow naturally from a more lighthearted conversation. We don’t have to force them, but we don’t want to avoid them either. If there’s a point in the conversation where we can insert a deeper question, we should do so and be prepared to respond to whatever he/she has to say. And we should be prepared to answer as well.

But don’t let feeling unprepared stop you from asking a deep question. The most likely thing is that you will have no idea what you’re going to answer to the same question, but you’ll learn about yourself in the process. I’ve been here many times, and it’s helped to deepen some of my relationships to a point where I start to feel as though I’ve known these people forever, rather than a few years or less.

 

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you all about how you’ve experienced deep conversations. Please share below or email me at andi_gregory (at) outlook (dot) com.

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When I’ve heard other writers give advice about attending writers’ conferences, there are two pieces of advice I always hear: “Connect with people you don’t know. Network.” and “Go to everything offered.”

For first-time conferees, these two phrases can put a lot of pressure on both the conferee and the conference. There are many expectations for the experience. However, while I think that both pieces of advice are good to hear, I also think we need to take them with a grain of salt.

“Connect with people you don’t know. Network.”

Networking is good, and so is connecting with writers, agents, editors, etc. that you don’t know. However, this can put a lot of pressure on conferees, especially introverts. While at the conference, they’re worried about talking to enough people, and the use much of their energy trying to work up the courage to talk to strangers all day. As an introvert myself, I’ve found this to be extremely exhausting. And as I use up my energy trying to talk with people the whole time, per the advice I’ve received, I find it harder at times to focus on the workshops and have energy for the things I am excited about.

Another thing that I thought when I heard this piece of advice was that I had to connect with a lot of people. I took it in the sense of “meet someone, have a short, meaningful conversation, and move on to meet someone new.” But I think sometimes you just need to connect with those old friends you haven’t seen in a while, or even those acquaintances you don’t know that well. Here’s one of my own experiences.

This past weekend I attended the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference in Anderson, Indiana. I was there with a group of fellow classmates, and a lot of the time I talked with them. Instead of branching out at lunch and sitting with a group of strangers, I chose to sit with a few of my classmates, most of whom I hardly ever talked to. And we had a wonderful conversation. For that day, it was my favorite part of the conference, and I feel I gained much more out of having lunch and interacting with my classmates than I would have if I’d networked and sat with a group of people I didn’t know.

“Go to everything offered.”

Look, I get the point of this statement, but it’s just not possible sometimes. I know the value in experiencing everything the conference has to offer, but sometimes you just can’t do it.  From what I thought when I heard this, and what friends have thought as well, this is often taken as “Go to everything offered no matter your energy level.” Which I think is just ridiculous. If you’re going to a conference, you’re going because you want to learn new things and meet new people. You can’t do that if you’re too exhausted to approach others or pay attention in workshops and critique groups.

I attended the Write to Publish conference at the beginning of this summer, and this was one of the pieces of advice I took to heart. I was determined to go to everything they offered that I could. I was ready to take in all of the information from the four day conference. I was excited.

By the time I made it to the middle/end of the third day, I was exhausted, but still excited. I was having a great time and learning a lot. Then at dinner I started talking with an alumnus from my college who was also attending the conference. When the time came to go to the evening activities, such as a speaker and critique groups, we decided that we both needed a break–and we didn’t want to end our conversation. So we went back to the dorms we were staying in (we were on the Wheaton Campus in Wheaton, Illinois) and talked for another hour or two. Honestly, it was the best thing I could have done. Not only was I able to rest from taking in information, but I was able to really connect, and it was with someone who helped me more than anything I could have learned from the conference activities.

So, what I’m trying to say with these examples is to not go too far. Know what your limits are, and when you reach them, don’t push past. You’ll only exhaust yourself further, which could lead to missed opportunities or lessons. If you get the chance, slow down and really connect with someone–whether that’s someone you already know or someone you just met. Don’t be rushing around trying to get everything in, because chances are, you won’t. And that’s okay. It’s why most conferences are an annual thing.

Go ahead and take everything you can out of the experience, but don’t go too far. Slow down and listen for what God’s calling you to do, even if that’s getting away from the conference for an hour or two to rest. Because if you don’t, you might just miss something important.

 

What do you think about these pieces of advice? Others? Voice your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say on the subject. (After all, I’m only one of the many perspectives out there.)

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IMG_0033“Newt!”

“I’ve got him, Minho.”

At Tanners Orchard in Illinois this weekend two of my close friends and I ran the corn maze. Ever since we saw “The Maze Runner” last October, we’ve assumed the characters of Minho, Thomas, and Newt as part of our identities, in those parts of our personality that match theirs. It’s been a way for us to have fun while we hang out, and a way for us to keep in touch with a movie we thoroughly enjoyed.

It’s another aspect of our relationship that ties us together. And so we went to Tanners for the second year in a row, and we went through the corn maze together as characters from “The Maze Runner.”

For me, this is an aspect of my relationship with these two people that deepens it. We call each other the characters from the movies, and we’ve enjoyed watching them together. And as all of us are writers, we’ve enjoyed theorizing about what might come next. It’s a part of our relationship that I’m deeply grateful for.

And choosing those characters for each other says something about our relationship: we know each other well enough to see one another in those characters. And as we interact using these names, we’re having fun with one another and deepening our relationship with another means.

When thinking about the relationship of these characters within the last couple of movies, too, it says something about our own interactions and relationships. By choosing these characters, we’re not only seeing the characters in each other, but we’re also seeing aspects of the characters’ relationships within our own: some of the bigger traits being loyalty, teamwork, and trust.

IMG_0041Relationships can’t solely be deep conversations and emotions running wild. There has to be some fun involved, and for us a part of that is through the times we’re characters from “The Maze Runner.” It gives us the chance to just mess around and be nerds. And we love it.

 

 

What are some of the fun and crazy things you do with your friends that you love?

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