It’s been a few years since I read Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering, but it continues to inspire me to think about purposefulness in relation to gathering. A good gathering, a good friendship, a good relationship; all are going to be the product of mindful and purposeful effort.
As we approach the holidays, your gatherings may look a bit different this year. If your purpose is to connect, whether virtually or in-person, here are some ideas for intentionally approaching your interactions.
Before I gather with someone, I try to think about three questions I want to ask or shared topics of interest I’d like to discuss. I reflect on the last time I spoke to them and what they shared with me. It's not a rigid obligation, in fact I may not remember all three in the end, but usually at least one is fresh in my mind. If you are someone who experiences worry or self-doubt going into social situations, this is a way to try to create some mental space to focus on planning and action.
Scale of 1-10
How are you, scale of 1-10? I got this question from Jane McGonigals, Super Better. These days the question “How are you?” feels like a heavy ask. It’s hard to say the reflexive, “good” or “fine” without feeling that you are lying. People are having a hard time right now and situations are complex. Asking someone to give a number invites them to quantify and explain. These days most people I talk to rate themselves at about a “6” – with different reasons as to why. We often joke that “6-7” is the new “8-9” in covid-adjusted terms.
Celebrations, Frustrations, Lessons Learned
I learned this one from my Work/Life team. We’ll start meetings by sharing anything that falls into these three categories. Asking others to share from recent weeks or the last time you gathered can spur good conversation.
What is the Other Person Looking For?
Lastly, consider what psychotherapist Katherine Schafler describes as the four questions we unconsciously ask in our interactions. These questions were gleaned from the words of Toni Morrison, Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou.
The questions are:
- Do you see me?
- Do you care that I’m here?
- Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
- Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?
Be mindful of your verbal and non-verbal language. If the person in-front of you, physically or virtually, were to ask those questions – how would your interactions answer?
If you need further inspiration, this IDEAS.TED.COM post by Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, explains the profound impact that interactions and words can have on our bodies.
I want to end this post with a caveat:
We are all experiencing heightened stress and uncertainty. This can infiltrate our interactions with others. As we continue to be isolated, it becomes easier to place greater significance on interactions and you may find yourself over analyzing what you say or do. With virtual interactions, your video is there staring right back at you, just begging for your monitoring and critique. Be easy and kind to yourself. Being purposeful gives you a framework for how to approach interactions. Being mindful helps you to employ flexible thinking that will allow those interactions to flourish.