Sunday, July 11, 2004

Life-Changing Conversations

I've been doing a lot of talking lately.

I don't think i've encountered more people than usual or that i've been particularly chatty. It's just that i've been more aware of the way talking, conversing can affect people, especially me. (Conversation, Conversion. I wonder if those two words are actually related.)

In the past couple of weeks, i've had a shitload of conversations with people about what's going on in their lives that's really none of my business and that most people wouldn't choose to talk about with their friends.

"What made you decide to get an HIV test? What, exactly, have you done that makes you think you might have contracted HIV? What would it mean for you if your test came back positive?

Knowing your result, what are you going to do now?"

These aren't your average dinner-with-friends kind of conversations. They're pointed, purposeful, and quite frequently gut-wrenching. And that's just for me.
There are other kinds of conversations that i'm paid to have. Conversations with people i sometimes find problematic and obtuse. Where people stubbornly refuse to understand even what they themselves are saying. Group dialogues that test my ability to facilitate productive conversation. Times that wrack my nerves from all the fragile and damaged egos in one room.

Then there are the conversations with friends, comrades, co-workers, and the like that seem to move me toward a greater understanding of myself. The conversations that allow me to see myself -- at least partially -- through other people's eyes. Simple things like asking my opinion about things i would not have considered opion-worthy of me. Recommending that i apply for jobs that i personally don't think i'm prepared for. Or letting me know very matter-of-factly how something i did or said has changed their lives.

I even had a dream last night that was full of nothing but conversations. Just before i woke up, my boss came into my dreamspace and started telling me about the fabulous, life-changing conversation she had just had with someone. "Ooh! We had the best conversation!!!" (It's something she would say.) I woke up thinking about how so much of our time is spent talking and working through our lives using the words we share. Relationships are built or broken through conversations. Jobs are won or lost based on conversations.

And yes, lives are sometimes changed, simply through conversation.

Conversation. Conversion. It can happen.

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