Since posting about Emerson’s thoughts on friendship and conversation a few weeks ago, I’ve continued to reflect on the actual practices involved (spurred by an email exchange with my friend Adrian Lory). Beyond just good listening, what can we do to cultivate the high freedom of conversation?
The authors of the book Co-Active Coaching emphasize the importance of being curious about your conversation partner. I’d go a slight step further and use the word fascination. Nothing makes you open up so much as talking with someone who is fascinated with you!
The idea of being “fascinated with” has a dual meaning: that I find you fascinating, but also that we are both of us fascinated by a possibility. In the context of a coaching or therapeutic relationship or of a true friendship, this possibility is a vision of what your life could be, of your highest potential. Part of what makes the relationship so special is that realizing this vision is a shared pursuit among the parties involved.
Yet I think that an even deeper shared pursuit underlies and animates this relationship: the co-creation of a culture of human fulfillment. It’s not just about you as an individual, for we are working together to achieve the greater goal of a world in which the vast majority of people can achieve meaningful lives.
In my experience, I feel the deepest connection with people who share this greater goal because we are walking in the same upward direction, albeit on parallel paths.