In conversation we can help others be their best selves
There are so many things we could pursue in any conversation: Learning, discovery, helping our partner, even fame. So it’s wise to pick something to use as a guide. What we pick, we can then hold quietly in mind as we are listening and thinking about what we might say next.
La Bruyère wrote:
The great charm of conversation consists less in the display of one’s own wit and intelligence, than in the power to draw forth the resources of others. […] The true man of genius will delicately make all who come in contact with him feel the exquisite satisfaction of knowing that they have appeared to advantage.
Helping others be their best selves is my favorite guide. It reminds me to think, for example: What could we create here and now that gives them mental space and physical time to arrange their thinking in new ways? It reminds me to wonder aloud and to stay curious. It reminds me to remain positive and to fully consider what my partner is saying.
Individually, those thoughts and reminders are small things, but they are of great importance. Focusing on these small things frees me from trying to imagine what is the big picture we’re creating.
And that frees me to be surprised and surprising.