Can You Here Me Now – Observations From the Coffee Shop
Can You Here Me Now
Observations From the Coffee Shop
Nope, that’s not a typo. I’m just finishing up a John Maxwell book titled “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” and the premise of the book is pretty much conveyed by the title. We often communicate without really being “present” in the conversation and engaged in a genuine exchange. Maxwell paints some great word pictures in his book, illustrating both successful and less-than-successful interactions but my mind continually wondered to living examples I’d observed.
It should come as no surprise that I spend an inordinate amount of time in local coffee shops. I meet clients there. I do the crossword and sudoku there to relax. Occasionally, I even drink coffee there. Most of all, I love to observe people there. In one of the local shops, I’ve closely observed two distinctively contrasting duo’s interactions.
Duo one consists of a man and woman who are actually older than me — if you can believe that. They show up at the coffee shop about once a week and sit together on a couch discussing current events, although “discussing” is a bit of a stretch. I get the feeling that they are not married but are longtime friends.
The woman is not mousy, but she is certainly deferential. She continually poses open-ended questions and frequently repeats what she’s just heard as if to emphasize that she was listening. Despite her courteous nature, it’s obvious that she inhabits a philosophical realm far removed from that of her male partner. I suspect she categorizes their conversations as “stimulating debate”.
Her pal, on the other hand, is very sure of himself and I get the feeling he’s used to being in a position of power. In fact, according to my well-honed eavesdropping skills, he appears to be the pastor of a local church. His half of the conversation comes off more like a lecture than part of a two-way conversation. And on more than one occasion, I’ve heard him characterize her opinions as naïve and shallow. Unquestionably, this fellow could hold his own debating even the most cocksure politician but is he communicating anything apart from his self-worship?
The woman reminds me of a battered housewife who somehow believes she deserves her fate, and on more than one occasion, I’ve wanted to ask why she continues to engage. I cannot figure that mindset out. I’ve also been tempted to ask the fellow why he treats her in such a disrespectful manner, but I seriously suspect the arrogance of his reply might result in assault charges being filed against me.
The Chess Players
Duo two consists of two guys my age who meet at the coffee shop once or twice a week to play chess. They typically play three or four games, going through multiple cups of coffee, and often, having lunch while playing. Now, this duo is as different as any two animals on the planet could be. One is Russian and the other is American. Due to their age, they grew up in societies that inhabited opposite sides of the cold war. One is a professing Christian, and the other is a life-long Atheist.
The difference with these two is that I’ve not had to eavesdrop on their conversations. I’ve actually been present at their table and studied their complex board-top skirmishes. During the action, they talk about everything, from politics, to religion, to economics, to women. Needless to say, their perspectives are dramatically different, but neither of them seems to get flustered. More important, they each seem to be listening to the other and enjoying the experience.
On occasion, they ask me to jump in and play a round of chess, but I always assure them that my lack of chess strategy would only bore them. When I told them my only chess experience since childhood had been recent attempts to re-learn the game by playing it on a computer, I could see both fellows stifle a gag. Finally, one of them confided to me that there’s something about engaging face-to-face over a chess board that fosters communication. It’s not just about who walks away with the other’s king; it’s about every idea that gets exchanged during the match.
It’s about being present in the moment and actively engaging with another human as equal but unique peers — imagine that.
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.
― C.S. Lewis
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What else would you expect me to recommend? I won’t say it’s the best book I’ve ever read because Russell Duckworth accuses me of saying that about every new book I read, but this one is at least in the top three. Maxwell is easy to connect to.