Big Talk or The Conversations That Will Fight Loneliness and Discontent

The TEDx talk by Kalina Silverman, How to Skip the Small Talk and Connect with Anyone, was a revelation on this winter afternoon.

First of all – I LOVE the concept of asking thought provoking questions. Yet, when I was in a therapy training program last fall, I came to an uncomfortable realization. I actually have pretty strong small talk skills. Group members were voicing hatred and discomfort with small talk, but, a voice inside me was saying – actually, I’m comfortable making small talk. I like exchanging lighthearted pleasantries, complimenting people, discussing (on the most superficial level) the big news item of the day, and even talking about the weather. I’m good at it. I can usually find a way to make someone feel good about themselves, and it superficially satisfies my need to feel a connection with someone without really having to connect or share of myself.  This realization left me conflicted. It’s true, that this ability sometimes helps me in corporate settings. However, even at that time, I knew that living on this superficial level was leaving me feeling lonely and discontent. Now that I’ve been away from that setting and have been focused on my health, I know that, that living like that was contributing to my sickness.  I was dealing in small talk not only with other people, but also with myself.

It’s hard to say whether my behaviour was contributing to my sickness or my sickness was causing this behaviour. What is clear, is that I was creating an unhealthy cycle.  By not asking myself the big questions, the thought provoking questions,  I was living as a hollow shell. I was living in a painful place where I was conscious of a deep dissatisfaction with my life but with no idea of how to make a change and no confidence that a change was possible. It was not until I finally collapsed (mentally and physically), the shell shattered and I was completely lost that it came to me that I needed to stop existing on small self talk and make big self talk a big part of my life. This realization saved me.

Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying – it wasn’t a realization that happened after an excruciating night of soul searching. It was much bigger than that. It was the love in the voice of my Mother, who said, “Akiko, we are coming tomorrow and we are taking you to the doctor”, it was my father always acting like picking up or taking me to the doctor’s was exactly what he wanted to do, it was my husband reaching out to me with only positive energy, and it was me building on this support to be brave and honest that brought me to the realization.

I want to pause here and send up huge gratitude. I have this amazing support system of beautiful people, and I also have a workplace with a paid disability plan that has allowed me the time to heal without worrying about my financial security. I am very aware of what a great gift these things are. I am so grateful for them. 

This realization saved me because once I started asking the big questions such as:

  • What is my purpose?
  • What does the universe want from me?
  • How am I going to contribute to the world?

I started to see how many things are possible. The act of asking these questions has sent me on a journey where I am aware that I am enough. These questions have made me believe in the journey and have filled me with ideas and awareness that are/is endlessly interesting and inspiring. They give me hope and a desire to do. 

So how does this related to Ms. Silverman’s talk? I wish I could say that I made the connection between what she was doing in her experiment with my recent realization right away- but I didn’t. At first, I was fascinated by her experiment of asking random strangers thought provoking questions and then trying to piece together how to use this practice to spread empathy and connection. In fact, I would say, initially I was a bit jealous that she’d done the experiment – this is something I would love to do. However, when she spoke about how she came to the realization that she needed to have “Big Talk” with herself before she could really take the idea anywhere – the flame ignited. This is what I need to do. Of course, I need to keep having these big talks with myself (but I already knew that), the realization is that I need to get with people and help them have big talks – with themselves. The path forward related to ANYTHING: empathy, connection, success, happiness, etc. – is the path I found, is the one I’m on, and the foundation of it, is the same for everyone.   

You can watch Ms. Silverman’s talk here: How to Skip the Small Talk and Connect with Anyone.

You can reach out to me to help you ask these big questions and start this journey.

Are you ready?

Using emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and deep listening practices Akiko offers caring and practical support to free yourself from the toxic, punishing thoughts and emotions that are keeping you stuck, so you can have better relationships with yourself, other people, and to the work you do.

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