We need to talk
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
By Yvette Nielsen
Networking events leave me walking on air, or running for the door.
Fortunately, the recent WINDO lunch at Cooroy RSL was welcoming, friendly, inspiring, affirming and not the least bit stuffy or intimidating.
I still recall my first business networking experience at a posh Brisbane hotel for women in technology in the late 90s. I’d just launched my web content consultancy and was nervous but eager and excited to show off my shiny new business cards.
Standing at the door to the cavernous function room, I inhaled deeply before striding into a sea of pink and purple power-suited women, complete with shoulder pads.
After several glasses of champagne courage, I’d found my groove and thoroughly enjoyed chatting with these women strangers who also embraced all things web.
I needed connection - beyond my dial-up modem - and the networking events helped feed my mind, soul and bank balance.
My brothers have always made use of their old school tie to lasso work opportunities and contacts but most of my schoolgirl chums were busy raising their kids (the toughest and most important job of all) when I was launching my second career. The business networks filled the gap.
Now, in my mid 50s, I’m once again tentatively stepping back out in the world in search of connection and a way to use my passion and experience to help others.
I’ve spent the past several years working on my inner life while recovering from a breakdown related to my third career as a child and family therapist (adored the work, abhorred the politics). While life as a hinterland hermit helped deepen my knowledge and connection with myself, it’s time to get back out there (as speaker and author Toni Powell encouraged me to do at the WINDO lunch).
This time, I’m even more nervous but I am feeling the fear and doing it anyway, as they say.
During my years of self-imposed exile, some of my deepest moments of connection were, ironically, with strangers. I’d meet them while sitting by the river communing with the pelicans or walking on the beach and smiling at the happy dogs bouncing by (I was often too scared of people to make eye contact with the owners). These brief interactions saved my sanity.
We human beings are social creatures and have an innate drive toward emotional growth through connection and self-expression. If we ignore those needs, depression and anxiety can cripple us until we wake up.
While solitude is essential for self-discovery, when we’re isolated for too long, our brains and bodies switch into survival mode, fearing we’re lost from the tribe and in mortal danger. The United Kingdom considers the risk so serious to public health and well-being that it appointed a Minister for Loneliness early this year.
Social media can help bridge the gulf of isolation, especially for people unable to go out to socialise, but can also feed loneliness and FOMO (fear of missing out). Texting, comments, instant messaging and emoticons are convenient but limited and constrictive – you can’t share your innermost thoughts and feelings in a few hundred characters of a Tweet.
The antidote? All of my research over the past seven years and personal experience points to the same answer: Authentic Connection.
When someone holds space for someone else without the need to judge, control or “fix” them, magic and healing happens. We feel truly seen, heard, respected, valued, understood, connected.
Deep listening is powerful medicine.
But in a hyper-paced, screen-ridden world, where can you find it (apart from a therapist’s office) and especially if you’re single or otherwise marginalised?
Most of our daily conversation is transactional and task focused. While the question, “What do you do for a living?”, might be helpful at a business networking event, it doesn’t necessarily open the door to more heartfelt or personal interaction.
So where can we go out socially, drop the masks and just enjoy an honest, person-to-person conversation about life, death, happiness, purpose, fears, dreams or some other universal or meaningful theme?
And when can we have those conversations when everywhere is so busy, noisy and outward focused?
Those were the questions behind my decision to host a pop-up, one-off “deeper conversations” evening - bringing real people together in the real world, in real time to talk about real stuff.
Skip the small talk and get right to the juicy heart of conversation with the help of a few thought-provoking questions about life, and a couple of tips for deep and present listening.
Having participated in a similar event interstate, I can tell you it’s a surprisingly refreshing, liberating, enlightening and soul-affirming experience.
Deep conversations remind me that I’m not alone - all time-limited beings struggle on this journey called life. We all feel lost and lonely some times. We all dream, fear, hope, age, regret, grieve, work, play, laugh, cry, yearn, love – it’s the human condition.
If we can risk vulnerability - trusting that we’ll not be mocked, shamed or otherwise hurt if we disclose our true selves - the rewards are gold.
Good conversation feeds the soul, enhances empathy and deepens understanding of not only ourselves but others.
So, sounds like a plan. What about you? Do you dare to connect?
* An Evening of Deeper Conversations, 6.30pm - 9.30pm, Thursday 29 November 2018 at the Noosa Parks Association Environment Centre.
Yvette Nielsen is a self described 'professional listener', writer, speaker, storyteller, connector and entrepreneur.
To reach Yvette, contact 0417 718 683 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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