I have a friend who will want to talk and he’ll tell me why. Often he’s asking me to just listen while he talks some­thing through out loud. By stating his inten­tion, it makes it easier for me to under­stand what I’m asked to do and decide if and when I can partic­i­pate. When his invi­ta­tion comes, I feel honored and grateful; and after several of these conver­sa­tions, I now eagerly await the next time we’re together.

It’s rare when I can state my inten­tion at the start of a conver­sa­tion, as I’m usually oper­ating in a “not-thinking” or “enough-about-me-have-you-read-my-blog” moment. When I’ve been able to think through my inten­tions and then state them, the usual conver­sa­tion becomes unusual. The result: memo­rable (at least for the rest of the day) and I have that “time-well-spent” feeling. When I ask the listener to actively partic­i­pate, I feel a closer connec­tion.

Here are some inten­tions I would have provided in recent conver­sa­tions. Asking myself a clar­i­fying “why” reveals further under­standing.

What would I like for you (the listener) to do with this infor­ma­tion?

  • Do nothing — Why? I think you’ll find my story funny; you seem to need a good laugh. Why? Prob­ably means I need a good laugh.
  • Agree with me — Why? To prove I’m right; others in my story are wrong.
  • While I’m talking, think of similar situ­a­tions you can share with me — Why is it OK for you not to listen? What I’m saying is really not impor­tant to me and prob­ably not impor­tant to you. (I spend most of my “not-coaching” conver­sa­tions in this mode — as a listener or a speaker. Sad to report.)
  • Just listen — do your best to shut down your thoughts and be very present; try not react to what I say (no judg­ment). Why? I’ll learn more about myself and the situ­a­tion as I share my story with you; I might see the situ­a­tion differ­ently.
  • Do nothing — Why? I’m a fasci­nating person, let me tell you more about my life. Why? Hmmm…
  • Ask me ques­tions — Why? Help me see the situ­a­tion differ­ently, learn some­thing about myself.
  • Disagree with me — Why? Help me see the situ­a­tion differ­ently.
  • Tell me what you would do — Why? Gives me some options to consider, although I rarely do what others tell me to do.
  • Listen, then tell me “You’re not crazy” or “You’re insane.” — Why? Tell me you’ve expe­ri­enced a similar situ­a­tion. (You’re not really going to tell me I’m insane, are you?) Why? If you’ve expe­ri­enced some­thing similar, I must be right.
  • Do nothing — watch my mouth move. Why? We have to do some­thing while we’re together. Why? Sitting in silence will feel uncom­fort­able. Why? Hmmm…

Now that I’m aware of my inten­tions, it’s prob­ably a good idea to ask myself, “After our conver­sa­tion, what is my hope for this rela­tion­ship with the listener?” And then decide whether or not to proceed with the conver­sa­tion.

Which of these conver­sa­tions would you most want to expe­ri­ence?

Oops, almost forgot. My inten­tion for writing this is to learn some­thing new by putting thoughts on paper, to help me remember to think through my inten­tions before launching a moment, and to learn from others’ expe­ri­ences in comments below.