I’m sharing the first couple of Moor Musings newsletters here in full, as blogs. So if you’ve been wondering what it’s all about – this is for you. And if you like what you’ve read, please do sign up, here’s the link .
Ey up! ‘Ow do? Welcome to Moor Musings! It’s been a few months in the making and I’m taking a deep breath, hitting send and hoping you enjoy taking a few minutes out of your day to read it. The theme this week is conversation. Chatting, having a natter. Talking.
Because there were times when writing this felt a little like my conversational skills since lockdown. A stuttering start as the brain warms up and breaks through the fog before all the unspoken ideas and thoughts start competing for airspace.
Are we struggling with talker’s block?
It reminded me of a line I scribbled while watching Simon Sinek and Seth Godin discuss writer’s block in a webinar a few months ago. One of them said ‘we don’t get talker’s block, so why do we have writer’s block?’ I paraphrase (a little) and to be fair, they probably don’t struggle.
We’re all socially awkward now
But it got me thinking that maybe we are experiencing talker’s block? We’re not having as many conversations as we did pre-lockdown and it’s affecting our social skills. As this New York Times article puts it ‘we’re all feeling socially awkward now’.
Creating good habits
But is the answer to block out time regularly to make contact with people, as the article suggests? It might sound formulaic, a bit like organised fun, but it can work. Let me explain.
Every Sunday at 11am I have a Zoom call with my siblings. Me in Yorkshire, my brother in Tokyo, one sister in Penarth and the other in Somerset. We had our first call back in March and we’ve kept it going. I don’t think we’ve talked as a four so often in – well, for ever – and I don’t think any of us thought we’d still be going strong in October.
There have been times when I’ve wondered if I have anything to contribute, given my Groundhog Day life. And yet, each Sunday we chat and listen to each other, finding out how Covid and lockdown is affecting us, in our different locations, family and home set ups. It is definitely one positive to have come out of lockdown.
It’s the little interactions that help keep our social skills fresh and nimble
A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject Celeste Headlea
Create space to talk
I’m not suggesting weekly Zooms as a solution, but it shows that creating space regularly to chat and connect really helps us all.
Firstly, it’s something that many of us are experiencing, so you know, safety in numbers. Secondly, it’s really not surprising that our social interactions are feeling a little clunky. Because it’s not just the long conversations over a coffee or glass of wine that we’re missing.
Keeping our social skills fresh and nimble
It’s the smaller, daily interactions. The unexpected ones like bumping into a colleague at work or having a quick chat at the till as you pack away your shopping. The little interactions that help keep our social skills fresh and nimble.
Add in face masks, hand sanitisers track and trace and It all starts to feel a lot harder. As Max, from Stazione, our local coffee shop said: ‘People come here for a coffee, a laugh and a chat. We want to make them smile. Now it’s all sit here, put your mask on, order here, pick up your coffee there. It’s not the same.’ And Max is the king of chat (and coffee).
Why don’t we have better conversations?
If you’re sitting there thinking that your conversational skills could do with a boost, I can recommend spending 12 minutes watching Celeste Headlea’s Ted Talk, ’10 ways to have a better conversation’.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll watch it smiling and nodding in agreement. And then you’ll wonder why, if it all sounds so simple, don’t we have better conversations a lot more? The answer isn’t a big surprise. It’s because we don’t listen.
And there are two big reasons why we don’t listen as Celeste explains: “Number one, we’d rather talk. When I’m talking, I’m in control, I’m the centre of attention. I can bolster my own identity. Number two: we get distracted. The average person talks at about 225 words per minute, but we can listen at up to 500 words per minute. So, our minds are filling in those other 275 words.”
Screens and scrolling
Add in screens and scrolling and we’ve got a perfect storm! Celeste takes us through her top 10 tips at quite a canter, including my favourite: “There is no reason to learn how to show you’re paying attention, if you are, in fact, paying attention.” (It’s all in her delivery!)
The key message about listening won’t be a huge surprise I suspect because, how many of us can relate to this from Stephen Covey: “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.” Guilty!
Mini communication challenge
So how about we use Moor Musings as a trigger to start creating some new good habits? I’m not setting targets or telling you how to do it. Just giving you (and me) a friendly nudge in the right direction. Here are some ideas and I haven’t forgotten about the writing. It’s in there:
Call someone you’ve got into the habit of texting – pick up the phone instead and see what happens to the conversation?
Make contact with a client, a colleague, someone in your work community and ask how they’re doing? Get some fresh ideas and perspective or just share some moans.
Write a letter or email. Send a postcard or start journaling. Just write. The benefits of making time each day to write is huge. I’ve signed up to www.750words.com and London Writer’s Salon. Or check out this reflective writing exercise.
Take a minute to stop and leave a comment on the photos, comments and stories you normally scroll past on social media.
Be part of the conversation, even if you’re not starting it
I’ve dipped in and out of all of them as I’ve got going with Moor Communication. This isn’t the first time I’ve worked for myself but it’s a whole lot easier with books like these around to guide and reassure me.
In the fiction corner, I’ve just finished re-reading Maria Semple: Today will be different because I needed an injection of whip smart writing, funny one- liners but underpinned with some meaty messages. Eleanor Flood is quite the lead character.
Plus a shout out to Happiful magazine, stuffed full of articles and insights on well being.
Thank you for reading to the end. Moor Musings will evolve and I’d love you to be part of that evolution. I might be the one writing it, but really it’s all about you. I want to send emails with content that really resonates, and helps you to write and communicate with confidence. So please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
I’ll be back in a fortnight but in the meantime, I hope you have lots of energising and entertaining conversations – whether by phone, in person or Zoom.