I’m laughing about my title above – “Ho-hum, humdrum, chinwag.” I recently discovered the word chinwag.
Chin – bottom of your mouth; outer part of your jawbone.
Wag – to twitch, flap, move to and fro.
What a great word to describe the wearisome, predictable jaw-movements we can get caught in. We talk, and yet, often, we say so little. Think about the questions you’re asked or that you ask others:
- Did you have a good time?
- How was school?
- How was the meeting?
- How was your day?
- What’s new?
- What have you been up to?
And the most likely answers:
- Not bad.
- Not much.
- Not much. How about you?
Boy that sure tells me…nothing.
One of the foundations of my teaching and coaching is what I call the Language of Empowerment. The Language of Empowerment is about shifting common words or phrases that we use automatically, to more meaningful, more personal, more empowered alternatives. (For example, replacing ‘but’ with ‘and’, which I wrote about here).
A core principle in the Language of Empowerment is to raise our awareness to the generalities we use in our conversations. And to be intentional about replacing generalities with language that is more specific and more personal. For example, changing the general, and banal, questions in my list above to ones that will help us KNOW each other more:
- What surprised you about the field trip?
- What happened today that made you laugh?
- What was the coolest thing that you learned at school today?”
- What did you hear in the meeting that you hadn’t expected?
- How did you and your boss/co-worker go about working through that issue today? What worked well for you guys?
Now I have information – insight! Now I’m getting an idea of what’s important to you, what engages you, what makes you happy, what disappoints you… Dialogue like this is incredibly valuable. And not only for the insight we gain. This dialogue facilitates connection and trust in the relationship as well as our mutual learning.
Give it a try! Today, make every conversation more meaningful. Be intentional about creating connection and strengthening each relationship. Use the ideas below to get you started. And download my reminder card here.
- Choose one interaction at work and one at home to experiment with specificity.
- Ask about what impacted, inspired, or moved the other? What made him/her laugh today?
- When they give you their answer, be curious about it. Take the conversation even further. Examples: If your colleague tells you the meeting was ‘fine’ because she received good feedback about her idea, ask her what it was like for her to receive that recognition. If your direct report tells you he is disappointed that he wasn’t included in xyz decision, ask him what is most frustrating about that? What does he need now?
Make conversation not just for conversation sake, but to KNOW each other more. I’ll bet your questions will help others know themselves more too. What a powerful way to cultivate connection, trust, and mutual respect.