Life Hack #1: The Elephant in the Room

connection Apr 25, 2014

By Sara Ness

A facilitator with Authentic World recently asked me to post about any tips, tricks, or stories I have around bringing Authentic Relating into life.  I thought this could be a cool series to include on Connection Corps!  So, here’s one of my favorite tips on bringing a conversation deeper.

One thing that’s worked for me is to speak what’s happening in the connection between myself and somebody else, or ask for what I’m wanting in that connection.

For example – I was meeting a few weeks ago with a guy who wanted to collaborate on an event around coaching women. It was an informal meeting, happening at a co-working space in central Austin, and I vaguely knew the guy through mutual friends and mutual interest in each others’ activities (he runs improv classes and is a life coach; I lead Authentic Relating and circling events). Given our connections, I would have expected the meeting to feel intimate and exciting. Yet . . . somehow, as the details were worked out and our time began to reach an obvious closing point, I didn’t feel any closer to this guy. I had no sense of how he felt about our connection, or what was possible between us, or even who he was.

So, just as we were getting up to leave, I screwed up my courage and asked: “After that meeting, what’s your impression of me?”

He paused and looked at me – really connecting – for a minute in silence. Then he told me, “I feel like more happens in you than you say.” I can’t remember his words verbatim, but the gist was that he felt like I was hiding myself from him. I’d felt the same thing with him! I realized suddenly that without even knowing it, we’d been playing a social game with each other called “How much can I trust you with who I am?”

The single question I asked brought our conversation from talking about what was outside of us, to talking about what was between us. We sat back down and kept connecting for another hour and a half, sharing some pretty deep parts of ourselves: what scares us about connection, what our childhoods were like, what it felt like to hear the other person’s opinion.

That guy and I are now good friends. We support each others’ events and have a lot of fun working together. But, more importantly, we have a commitment to be honest with each other, and to speak the truth of what’s happening between us. That would never have happened if the conversation had stayed “polite” or “businesslike”!

Life hack: If you feel bored or disconnected in a conversation, find out what’s happening in the space between the two (or more) of you. Ask: “What’s your impression of me?” “What aren’t you saying right now?” or, “What’s not being said between us?” <– that question actually led to I and two of my friends FINALLY admitting our attraction to each other, after it being the elephant in the room for over a year. But that’s a story for another time . . .

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