Talking is hard! Right? Sometimes is goes well enough, but other times it is unfullfilling and downright frustrating. Ever wondered what specifically makes a conversation feel good or bad?
According to Relational Cultural Theory or RTC, when we leave conversation energized, we have experienced "connection." Conversely, when we leave conversation with someone and feel rundown or discouraged, we have experienced "disconnection."
When we have more disconnections than connections, we can fall into condemned isolation: " experience of isolation and aloneness that leaves one feeling shut out of the human community... alone, immobilized regarding reconnection, and at fault for this state". This is when depression can take over and make connecting feel impossible or undesirable.
BUT when we keep trying and work toward mutuality, the exchange of responsiveness from all parties during connection, we can grow with others (Mutual Growth). The trick is to know when to invest in a conversation or cut you losses to perserve energy for the next one and protect your general mood around conversation.
Surprisingly, sometimes all we have to do is model what we want to get more of it, and observe to see if it is reciprocating. Here is a stepwise process that may help achieve more mutualityin conversations:
- OPPORTUNITY: Initiate/respond with an opening (generic greeting and mundane sentences that signal conversation may occur)and look for cues of openess to more talk (eye contact, warmth, body language towards you, and pausing before moving on)
- OPENNESS: Try a continuation but go for something a little less generic that signals openness to talk about a topic or each other (what did you do this weekend? or I am so tired today, how are you feeling?)
- AUTHENTICITY: If it seems like you and the other parties are still engaged (continued positive body language), try a disclosure or request for disclosure that is of moderate depth, match your partners willingnness to explore, don't jump into the deep end just yet--be gentle, and definitely dont go alone.
- EQUALITY: This is critical for connection, all parties must feel empowered to engage and express, no one dominating or abandoning the talk, noone is over exposed or underpriviledged, watch for criticisms and judgments ofeach other (debate about topics is fine but not about persons)
- VULNERIBILITY: If listening and talking is going well and ou made it this far, connection has been established and it is safe to encourage vulnerability in the self and others (that means deal with your uncomfortable feelings, open up about what the topic means to you, who you are as a person in ways that are relevant to the talk, etc.), listen with empathy and positive regard.
- CLOSURE: When the energy shifts towards ending, don't linger or hold someone unecessarily (pay attention to negative body language cues), this can ruin the mutuality. Allow the end and be thoughtful about how you say goodbye (thanks for chatting with me, I enjoyed talking with you,etc.).
When these ways of relating become more common for you, it feels better to be around others, so leave the conversation at any step if the enrgy towards each other feels lost.
The main idea is not to contribute to dispair or condemned isolation, there will be other opportunities to achieve mutuality.Hold out for the good connections and allow the failed ones to be seen as part of the whole process.
You get feelings of empowerment from exchanges, maybe even inspired by others! Plus, your feelings of self-worth go up and getting more desirable relationships gets easier.