Have a Conversation (Take out Your Headphones)!
Those who don’t know me well are often surprised to learn that I am an introvert. While I am certainly outgoing, I enjoy alone time as well.
Thus, when I get on a plane, or am in a similar public place alone, my natural tendency is to put in my headphones and mind my own business. To be honest, sometimes that is what I choose to do.
But recently I have been thinking about how isolated and divided our culture has become. People are divided economically, politically, racially, and even now in the world of sports. It seems like people are constantly angry and our division seems to grow deeper and wider by the day. There seems to be little cultural “glue” that binds us together.
What can I do about it? What can you do about it?
Rather than putting on my headphones on the way to Montana last week, I decided to start up a conversation with the 70-year-old lady sitting next to me. It turns out she was personally delivering a pie to the brother of Richard Nixon who lives in the northwest.
Needless to say, we had a fascinating conversation! She works for the Nixon foundation and has been friends with the Nixon family for years. She shared with me some unique insights about both the foundation and the Nixon family. We stayed in touch briefly afterwards by email, as I sent her some information she requested for her grandkids.
On my next flight, I sat next to a 20-something African-American girl who was playing college basketball in Alaska. She shared about her journey of growing up in Arizona, deciding to play collegiate sports in Alaska, and what it’s like to be on a top 25 team in the nation (NCAA D2). As a former college player, and a current fan of college sports and the NBA, we had a memorable conversation.
Both conversations were probably 20-30 minutes, which meant that we were able to work on stuff most of the flights.
My point is not that conversations are always this interesting. Sometimes people don’t want to talk. Sometimes I am too tired to engage.
I am sure glad I talked with the two people who sat next to me, though. I learned something. They learned something.
One way to decrease the cultural division today is if each one of us would take out our headphones and interact with the people around us–and especially those who are different. Listen. Ask questions. Learn. Engage.
Will you join me?