This is a weird article. I will start in conversation maintenance, move to commanding frame in conversations and the psychological underpinnings of how I succeed in building trust, respect, and rapport, and will end with a personal philosophy about remaking one’s life.
They are all connected. Stay with me.
The best conversation maintenance phrases and questions that charm the other and deepen connection and subject material:
-That’s interesting, I’d love to hear your perspective on that
-What sets your mind on fire right now? What really lights you up? (If nothing, good luck finding common ground)
-What are three things you think we have in common?
-Tell me more about that
-What do you care about outside of work?
-Why is that true for you?
-Where do you think that comes from in you?
-If you could change one of your habits tomorrow what would it be?
-What do you think you’re capable of? Why aren’t you pursuing it?
-Where have you settled in the last 2 years?
-How are you different from who you were 4 years ago and what are you most proud of in that change?
-How would you like to have changed 4 years from now? How about 6 months from now?
Some of these can be uncomfortable questions, but they’re amazing for building trust and deepening connection quickly – they share a healthy kind of vulnerability, a vulnerability about our actions and aspirations and interests instead of about messy emotional baggage that is anathema to new courting partners or burgeoning friends.
This is how to be vulnerable – everybody worth your while is interested in the process of growth and transformation, often unconsciously, because we are all inspired by those who have transcended and made themselves into more. We all aspire to that too, even if it isn’t clear in our own minds.
Tapping into this drive is an amazing way to connect if you are consciously and ruthlessly improving yourself. It also serves to bring the other into your frame of competent activity where you’re already proficient.
If you are consciously treading new grounds of growth with intention, and others perceive you to be ahead of them and benevolent to their intention to do so as well, then that places you in an ongoing position of competence in a ‘dangerous’ activity – facing your past, your bad choices, your lack of choosing, and social conditioning; changing substantial things about one’s life is harder than skydiving for most people, and that is a frame I’ve found myself occupying, and it captures people’s attention more than any of the other amazing adventures I’ve been on.
Re-making myself and leaving my old self behind (several times now) ignites people’s passions more than mountaineering, sailing, being a cowboy, or a banker ever could. The most exciting adventure isn’t adventure – it’s a very specific idea people connect with – the idea that you, like me, can leave behind your life of soul-eating, consumeristic, wealthy boredom and become the embodiment of your passions.
To burn your life to the ground and begin letting your life be dictated by your interests is an aspiration of so many people, young and old, but many would rather step into a pen with a bull (I’ve done that) than give up the comfort and security of their regular paycheck, and thus those of us who have lived a life of intensity, if even only for a year now, have a unique cache in the barren commodity market of accessible adventure stories.
Sure you have people like Kia Lenny who surfs big waves professionally, and sure you have people like Angel Collinson who stars in Teton Gravity Research films, but how many people do you know who leave a ‘successful’ life behind to pursue actually becoming one of them?
That is my niche. And I am going to ride it out until I too become one of those hyper-stars of adventure – but all along the way, I’ll be telling people how they can do it too.
You can start by asking yourself those last few questions over and over until you know the answers – in your soul, not just in your mind, and then wear a necklace that you ascribe that meaning to until it borrows it’s way inside your sternum, and penetrates your heart – restoring to it the drive that was there before society heaped on you its own expectations.
And then you can step forth into the air and the sunshine.
God knows dreadfully few will ever do it – it’s more daunting to many than cutting off a limb – but perhaps a few will. Perhaps…
I implore you my friends. Let it burn if you hate it. Rise from the ashes. The Phoenix is more than a metaphor. It’s a developmental pathway. It’s a Guide.