How to get out of your head and have an incredible conversation
You know when you’re reading an incredible book and you just can’t put it down?
This was how I felt when I was on my couch, lost in a book that that revolutionizing the way I thought about conversation.
The book? It’s called Flow.
And what the book talks about is the fascinating concept of ‘flow’ itself — that feeling of ‘the world falling away’ and feeling like you’re 100% in the moment. All of your to-dos, your schedule, your worries, your anxieties, fly out the window and you forget that even time exists.
Wouldn’t you kill to feel that way all the time?
I knew that as I was reading, that flow was a ‘thing’ that I’ve experienced, but it just happened to me. Just like it might rain one day, and then 3 months will pass until it rains again–there’s no pattern to it. But I wanted to know how I could engineer the entire damn thing. Just like my 5th grade self who broke a pencil because my teacher couldn’t explain a problem to me, I must know the HOW.
So what does ‘Flow’ have to do with conversation?
In the book, it mentions many case studies about people doing all kinds of activities — from assembly line work, to farming, to running a business — and talks about the mechanics of how each person achieves a state of ‘flow’ during each. Imagine my surprise when one of the activities mentioned was conversation.
But it makes sense, doesn’t it?
We’ve all had moments where we’ve talked to someone, and left them thinking: “Wow. That was the best conversation I’ve had in a long time.” It’s a rare thing — where you no longer feel self-conscious, you feel like you can express yourself, and you feel a sense of deep intimacy and connection with someone.
But here’s the problem with ‘flow’
This can seem like a very abstract concept that’s hard to achieve. In fact, even though the book lays out a process for how you can go about achieving it, we all know that in practice we get so in our heads and caught up in our mental chatter that we can’t stay focused in the moment. [This mastering of your emotions is what I talk about in my premium course, Confidence 10X]
But it’s hard in the moment to deal with all of your thoughts. When they come up, they might make you feel anxious or nervous and then you can’t stop thinking about it, and you try to focus, but you just can’t seem to shut your mind off. So I got to thinking: what if there’s a better way?
And there is
I was talking to a reader the other day, and he asked me a few questions about certain meditation and relaxation techniques to use to stay present in conversation. The truth is, I’m not an expert meditator and I use a wide variety of relaxation techniques so it’s hard to say “Here’s ‘The One’ to use’.
But the good news is we don’t HAVE to be expert meditators or sit on a little mat for 3 hours and try to shut up our thoughts. (Which, by the way, doesn’t work. My good friend and meditation teacher, Melissa Lau, talks about how our minds are SUPPOSED to wander. She also has an excellent meditation program that I’ve gone through myself)
Instead, we can take just ONE concept from the world of meditation and apply it to our everyday conversations.
Here’s the technique:
In a certain kind of meditation, instead of focusing on only your breath, you focus on different parts of your body and different sensations you have. So you might focus on your breath one moment, then focus on your toes, then focus on the sensation in the back of your neck. It’s shifting focus, one moment at a time.
Now let’s apply this to conversation
Let’s say you and I are talking and suddenly your mind jumps to all your ‘to-dos’. You know that it’s too hard to shut your mind off, so you keep going back to your thoughts, then you try to re-focus and worry if I know you’re distracted and then get turned off.
Instead, when the thought comes up, let yourself focus on it for a moment, giving it just a second of your attention. Then simply refocus back to the person in front of you. If the thought comes up again, give it a second of your attention, and then come back to the person in front of you. Repeat for the entire conversation.
Notice how counterintuitive is this: it’s not about eliminating the thought and forcing yourself to be 100% present. It’s acknowledging that your mind WILL wander, and having this tool in your toolbox to use so you don’t worry or freak out when you get distracted. It’s normal! The person you’re talking to is thinking just as much about their groceries as you are.
Time to practice!
Apply this technique during one of your conversations today — it doesn’t matter who it’s with. The goal is NOT for you to be 100% present or even achieve ‘flow’. It’s to practice shifting your focus, back and forth, and not judging the thoughts that come up. [As you’ve probably noticed, the judging of the thoughts is what causes the most conflict, not the thoughts themselves]
Then, reply back and let me know how it goes. What worked, what didn’t? I can’t wait to hear.
Enjoy your conversations!