Conversation: Have You Had Any Lately?

March 10, 2012

Coffee Love

 Sometimes, the little things make all the difference in the world.

Conversation is not something a lot of us have time for anymore. I mean, we do talk…and we certainly share information…but how often do we just sit down and have an honest-to-goodness conversation with one another? In my world, not as often as I’d like.

(How often, for that matter, do we get coffee in a REAL cup, and take the time to enjoy it? Not NEARLY often enough.)

I wanted to tell you about two women I’ve met who understand the value of a good ol’ fashioned chin wag, and about how much good they are doing in the world…and about my recent real cup of coffee.

Re: Conversation…I’m not talking about the ability to natter incessantly, because lots of people can do that.

I’m talking about the art of engaging someone else in a meaningful and interesting conversation and making it seem effortless.I’m talking about the art of drawing people in to a space where they feel valued and important. I’m talking about the art of listening and the art of being present.

Why do I keep using the word: art?

Because I believe it takes skill and practice and is NOT easy. I don’t think everyone is great at this the first time they try it. I think it can be learned, and I also think it takes a certain amount of effort and intentionality. And…there are people all around us we can learn from by just paying attention and watching them at work.

One such person is the first woman whose name I am not even sure I was ever aware of. (If I was, I couldn’t share it anyway because of confidentiality.) I’ll call her Mrs. X.

Mrs. X was a patient in the Emergency Department of the hospital I worked at. The ER was completely overcrowded (as per usual) and as a result, people were lying about in the hallways on stretchers and sitting in chairs along the passageways. Mrs. X, who was somewhere in her 80’s, was one of the ones lying on a stretcher near my desk, waiting. I’m not even sure now what she was waiting for, but it was clear to me that she wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. She had an injured hip and was likely waiting to be moved to the surgical department, but first was going to have to spend hours in the hallway with the rest of the mayhem.

What was remarkable about this woman was her attitude, and her conversational ability. Here she was in a loud, crowded, uncomfortable situation…likely in some pain or discomfort…and yet she continued to be interested in the people around her. Instead of lying there quietly or sleeping or worrying about her own plight, she was thinking of other people.

I remember watching as she spoke to a nervous young girl who sat in a nearby chair with a towel over a bleeding hand, waiting for some stitches. Mrs. X asked her all about school and what activities she liked most, and pretty soon, the young girl was laughing and smiling and looking less nervous about her injury. I’m sure the long wait felt that much shorter because of it.

Then I watched Mrs. X  engage the Lab Technician who came to take her blood in a very long conversation about body piercing, because the Lab Tech had a nose piercing and Mrs. X was fascinated. Their conversation ended with a warm smile and with the Lab Tech giving the woman a squeeze of the hand and thanking her for a compliment she’d just been given.

This kind of thing happened all day long.

(I WAS working, in case you were wondering, I just kept overhearing these exchanges as the woman was near my workspace.)

In the end, almost everyone she encountered left her side smiling, and in almost every case, the woman had wanted to know about the other person, had complimented their work, or had sincerely thanked them for something.

Healthcare staff are supposed to make the patient feel better, but in this case, the patient was taking on this task!

I’ve never forgotten Mrs. X. The fact that she lay on that stretcher, body broken, didn’t stop her from reaching out and making other people feel good.

What a gift!

The other person is a woman I had a conversation with yesterday. Her name is Jean.

Jean is terminally ill. I’m not sure with what, but I do know that she has trouble breathing and that she keeps talking about the plans she’s making for her own funeral.

Jean has the incredible gift of conversation. I have seen her speaking to adults, to children, to teens, to seniors and each time have seen all involved smiling and laughing with her. She is the first person to encourage, praise and pat another on the back, but never is it fake or pretend. Her encouragement is genuine. Her laugh is real. She lights up any room she’s in.

Yesterday, I had a lovely conversation by telephone with Jean. She had sent me some newspaper articles and some jokes with a card in the mail (yes, real mail!) as I have been recovering (as some of you know) from surgery and am not yet back at work. We had been playing telephone tag for some time, and finally connected yesterday. I remember thinking, as we spoke easily about a number of topics, about how good it was to just chat for a while, and about how much I appreciated that she took the time to reach out, when she herself is unwell.

I hung up the phone, smiling.

It might not seem like much, perhaps, in this world of high-tech everything….but I still firmly believe that conversation is powerful, and that we need a good dose of it regularly!

The Coffee Image Above.

The image you see in this post was one I took with my phone on Monday afternoon. I was with some of my family on a spontaneous trip to the beach. Yes…in March, on a Monday! We have been experiencing a teachers’ strike here in BC, and as a result, we had the youngest two kids home for the day. It was a mild Vancouver day, the kids were getting restless, and we decided to go fly a kite!

It was fairly windy, and the kite went all the way up to where there were three bald eagles circling. The birds proved to be interested in this colourful thing, and stayed near. After quite some time, we reeled it in, and headed for a little hole-in-the-wall Italian coffee and gelato place, and this is where I was served this lovely drink you see.

The heart in the foam is one of those “little things“. I don’t know how the owner who made the coffee created this, but it was not really necessary. The coffee was delicious without it. The extra bit of time he took to make all of our drinks a bit fancy was quite special. The girls were thrilled with the heart-shaped chocolate shavings in the whipping cream of their hot chocolates.

The four of us sat with our artistically made hot beverages, and had some great family conversation.

At one point, my husband and I smiled at each other across the table, and all that came to mind for me was: life is good.

My wish for each of you this week is that you have some time to sit – beverage of choice in hand – and have a really good conversation with someone special in your life.

It’s good for the soul.



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