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September 15, 2022

“Please don’t tell anyone I said this…”

Have these words ever come out of your mouth? If so, then please know, you are not alone. And it struck me as odd, really. Why do we have to give this type of disclosure before starting an honest conversation? I am the type of person who you can tell anything and it would never even occur to me to share ANY of it with somebody else; meaning, whatever you are telling me, confiding to me or just venting to me stays between you and me. You don’t have to start with a legal paragraph and request a signature before talking to me. In my mind, it is always implied (subconsciously) that since you are having a conversation with me, it is indeed intended for you and me only. It would be different if the conversation takes place within a larger group, but I would still not re-tell any shared info to someone else. Now, I realize this “non-sharing clause” might be different depending on the circumstance; if I was talking to my partner or my kids, I assume that any conversation is an open dialogue and everyone can freely add their input for proper collaboration and planning, etc. The same would hold true in a work meeting or similar group forum.
But generally speaking, why do we feel the urge to start any meaningful conversation with “please don’t tell anyone I said this” or “just between the two of us?” On many occasions, I have actually responded with “whom am I going to tell?” feeling a bit insulted. Is the person implying they can’t trust me or is it just the thing to say before giving your opinion or input regarding a specific subject matter? Just to make the other person realize what they are about to says is ‘serious.’
Truth be told, I feel that, as a society, we have been taught a level of self-censorship that prevents us from giving our true opinion; keeps us from speaking from the heart on any given subject matter. There is always an underlying fear of how everything and anything we say is being perceived. Therefore, indirectly and directly cutting off any opportunity to learn, correct, engage, teach and offer constructive feedback or a different perspective. It’s like we are all some type of brain-washed person; only saying what we think the other person wants to hear or should hear based on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, all the while preventing us from being our true self! How can we be our innermost self if we can’t share our true thoughts on a specific topic? We constantly live with the fear of retaliation or being labeled, let alone become part of a future gossip conversation that we are not part of.
I don’t like small talk. Mainly, because I am not good at it, but also because I don’t feel the need to fill silence with unnecessary words. Why do some people feel they have to say something (and it’s really anything) at all times and especially after even the slightest gap of noise? Can’t people just sit with their own thoughts anymore? Has silence truly become uncomfortable? Small talk is a bit painful to me, really. I know it is supposed to be some type of icebreaker to get to know others better, but I don’t find them exceptionally helpful. People generally respond the same way and one gets the feeling they don’t actually care about your respond back to them: “How are you doing?” “Good. You?” It’s all so automatic; pre-programmed even. We are so good at this simple exchange that we could answer before the other person even asks? Why? Because we KNOW they are going to ask!
Now, generally speaking, anyone stands out to me if they approach me with an unexpected comment or question; a concept the other person wants to genuinely talk about and hear what you have to say without any preconception or feeling of interrogation floating in the air. It is at this very moment, I feel giving part of myself when entering a conversation, because the other person gives something of themselves. It’s an honest exchange of words both parties can walk away from with MORE – more information on the subject matter, a more opened mind, a new friend, a new business venture, a new project and more to talk about at a later time.

The only time this would not happen is when you are aware of conversation patterns of other people. Meaning, you genuinely shared your point of view, only to find out at a later time that your opinion was initially discarded and then presented to be dissected by the person in front of other people who then indirectly labeled you or voided your perspective altogether. If the pattern continues, I generally retreat back to an “acquaintance” role and share superficial pointers; meaning, diverting back to a form of small talk (which by now, you know I dislike).

It’s difficult to constantly having to explain myself when people only understand things from their level of perception, because anything different makes them uncomfortable due to having to explore and question their own ways of thinking.

Of course, I’m far from perfect (who is?) which is why I enjoy meaningful exchanges and discussions. It allows me to obtain different points of views and gain perspectives on things I had not even thought of. Deeper conversations without judgement also means, your stand on the subject is valued. Nothing is more joyous than ending a conversation with a smile on your face, extra pointers and a positive attitude. It makes you feel completely energized versus drained with a pounding headache. An enjoyable conversation to me is walking away with a tiny fragment of that person based on just a word, sentence or personal story he or she shared. And this tiny fragment is then carried by me from that moment forward. I believe THAT is a beautiful thing, because this sliver is now part of you and you KNOW the person really “gets you.”

I wish for you to find someone like that; and when you do, definitely hold on to that person, because they are extremely hard to find.
We can have superficial conversations with anyone, but the dialogue that occurs in the most genuine, transparent, and honest way matters most. Having the ability and space to speak freely and without judgement is paramount in life; it’s the groundwork for a better and more meaningful existence.

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