Today’s work had me sitting amidst a group of lawyers, talking about trademarks and copyrights. With only one other creative in the room, I felt a bit outmatched as the legalese starting flowing and words I will never use (and will never understand why they are selected in the first place) filled the conversation. If I were counting, and playing BINGO, my card would have filled up quickly.
I learned quite a bit in our time together, and when the meeting was over, there was a lunch prepared. The other creative left, as did our company’s two general counsel, but I chose to stay and eat with the group. At that point, there were 2 outside counsel, and 7 counsel and paralegals from our sister company. Plus me.
As I enjoyed the Mexican cuisine, I watched the interplay in the room. I learned that one of their general counsel used to be a patent lawyer, so he seemed to know about our topic as much as the outside counsel did. The paralegals rarely spoke beyond answering the questions I was asking about them, trying to create conversation. They were very nice people, but it almost felt as they were not comfortable speaking in front of their executive leader and the outside counsel. So I turned to the outside counsel to my right. We chatted for a few minutes about his work, but soon the conversation turned back to the legalese that had overtaken the earlier meeting.
The executive leader carried on most of the rest of the conversation, amidst some rather awkward silence. As I sat there watching the dynamics of the room, I wondered if the group ever got away from talking about legal matters. Of course, law is where their passion is; otherwise, they would have never entered the field, so obviously, they would talk about their passions. It simply made me think about connections, choices, and the art of conversation.
I could have chosen to leave before lunch, but I’m glad I stayed. I enjoy networking and learning about others, even if it does get awkward. Maybe this lack of the art of conversation in society today is making connections harder. Even knowledgeable and well-educated lawyers may have forgotten how to show interest in others and ask questions that will elicit responses rather than just a nod of the head. And had I left, I would have missed out on a couple of hugs from some paralegals.
It was a great study in conversation, and it’s something that I know I will want to keep working on.
DAY 207 HOMEWORK: Practice the art of conversation over the next few days. Pay attention to those around you. Do you dominate the conversation, trying to fill awkward silences? Watch for the ebb and flow of conversation. Ask questions that require a thoughtful response, not just a yes or no answer. If someone fails to volley a question back to you (thus keeping the conversation going), you can keep it going by telling of an example on a related subject and then volleying back another thoughtful question. Try it out and see what happens.