I have a friend who will want to talk and he’ll tell me why. Often he’s asking me to just listen while he talks something through out loud. By stating his intention, it makes it easier for me to understand what I’m asked to do and decide if and when I can participate. When his invitation comes, I feel honored and grateful; and after several of these conversations, I now eagerly await the next time we’re together.

It’s rare when I can state my intention at the start of a conversation, as I’m usually operating in a “not-thinking” or “enough-about-me-have-you-read-my-blog” moment. When I’ve been able to think through my intentions and then state them, the usual conversation becomes unusual. The result: memorable (at least for the rest of the day) and I have that “time-well-spent” feeling. When I ask the listener to actively participate, I feel a closer connection.

Here are some intentions I would have provided in recent conversations. Asking myself a clarifying “why” reveals further understanding.

What would I like for you (the listener) to do with this information?

  • Do nothing — Why? I think you’ll find my story funny; you seem to need a good laugh. Why? Probably means I need a good laugh.
  • Agree with me — Why? To prove I’m right; others in my story are wrong.
  • While I’m talking, think of similar situations you can share with me — Why is it OK for you not to listen? What I’m saying is really not important to me and probably not important to you. (I spend most of my “not-coaching” conversations in this mode — as a listener or a speaker. Sad to report.)
  • Just listen — do your best to shut down your thoughts and be very present; try not react to what I say (no judgment). Why? I’ll learn more about myself and the situation as I share my story with you; I might see the situation differently.
  • Do nothing — Why? I’m a fascinating person, let me tell you more about my life. Why? Hmmm…
  • Ask me questions — Why? Help me see the situation differently, learn something about myself.
  • Disagree with me — Why? Help me see the situation differently.
  • Tell me what you would do — Why? Gives me some options to consider, although I rarely do what others tell me to do.
  • Listen, then tell me “You’re not crazy” or “You’re insane.” — Why? Tell me you’ve experienced a similar situation. (You’re not really going to tell me I’m insane, are you?) Why? If you’ve experienced something similar, I must be right.
  • Do nothing — watch my mouth move. Why? We have to do something while we’re together. Why? Sitting in silence will feel uncomfortable. Why? Hmmm…

Now that I’m aware of my intentions, it’s probably a good idea to ask myself, “After our conversation, what is my hope for this relationship with the listener?” And then decide whether or not to proceed with the conversation.

Which of these conversations would you most want to experience?

Oops, almost forgot. My intention for writing this is to learn something new by putting thoughts on paper, to help me remember to think through my intentions before launching a moment, and to learn from others’ experiences in comments below.