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Can We Make Meaningful Converstion The Norm?

How was vacation?

How was the movie?

How is the new place?

How was dinner?

How was the date?

How’s work?

How’d it go?

We don’t give real answers to these questions. We give dismissals: “It was fine. It was great. Oh, we had a blast!” “It was interesting, different, very unique.”

The question I have is why was it interesting.

What made it different? What was unique? Unique compared to what? What’s the benchmark here for interest? Is “different” good or bad? When you say “interesting” do you mean boring or do you mean unconventional? Or neither, you just needed a filler word?”

Why is being substantive unusual? Why is it uncomfortable? Why isn’t it the norm?

I don’t care for football, but I have opinions about it. I can choose to comment on the culture surrounding it, and inquire about the players or the strategy; heck, I can ask the question: why is this fun? And turn it into a sociological conversation. 

There is always room to expand what we’re thinking about.

Why are we satisfied with: “It was great! Oh, we had so much fun.”

I had a teacher who banned the word “interesting” in class with the hopes that it would force people to go deeper. But the result of the experiment was that people just replaced “interesting” with another equally meaningless word. It didn’t force them to go deeper.

Which begged the question: Why?

My suspicion is because “interesting” and answers like it are not the problem.

The prompt is.

“How was XYZ?” sets you up for a yes/no response and one that passes judgment: Good bad interesting boring fun great fine wonderful. But that is not what we really want to know. We don’t need to know if you approved of dinner or the concert (or I don’t).

What we really want to know is did it move you? Did it matter? Why? You spent hours of your life engaged in something. How did you feel about it? Was it worth your time? Why or why not? What did you learn? What upset or disappointed you? What delighted you? What confounded the experience? What enhanced it? How did you experience it?

When I was little I remember wondering how it was possible for people to be bored when life is so fascinating. Even boring things can become fascinating when you evaluate why. Why is Professor Johnson so horrible at speaking? How is it possible to make a fascinating topic (like physics) so profoundly tedious? Why is this infomercial angering me? Am I enjoying this conversation because I like being associated with this person or do I care about what they’re saying? Am I even listening to what they’re saying?

There are so many ways to make something (ahem) interesting.

The dictionary defines interesting as, “arousing curiosity or interest; holding or catching the attention.”

Is this what we mean when we use it?

Did the experience hold our attention and arouse curiosity? Or are we trying to get out of a conversation? To be polite and move on.

Life is so rich. It hurts my heart to think of how many of us go through it dismissing our internal experience and opting to keep our relationships and dialogue surface level.

We are missing SO MUCH of the richness. Losing opportunities to connect and learn about each other. To find out – sincerely – who you are.

I move we stop asking, “How was it,” and start asking, What was your experience like?” 

That we do not miss opportunities to get closer, learn about one another, and understand each other’s (cough) unique points of view. I want to know, sincerely, why you did not enjoy that play. Why did dinner arouse curiosity? What was boring about the movie? What made the exhibit. “different?” 

To get to know each other.

Your individual point of view.

Your specific experience, thoughts, ideas, reaction, reflections, and opinions.

Wouldn’t that be….interesting?



PS: On the subject of sharing your unique point of view and experience – I got a LOT of replies to my AI piece. The most heartbreaking were from artists wanting to know sincerely how they could compete in a market where perfect technique and form will be replicable. And how they will never be able to compare or compete.

My answer: no one is buying your art for the technique. People stopped focusing on technique a long time ago, though it is one of those after-the-fact aspects of art that we use to justify the price. We buy art based on how it makes us feel, what it says about who we are, perceived prestige and status, who made it, and how it makes us look. But forget about all that and remember this: it is you they are buying.

We can make man-made diamonds more perfect than ones extracted illegally and inhumanely from Africa and around the world. And yet no one boasts of man-made diamonds in their engagement rings (I wish they would). They boast of natural diamonds and family heirlooms. They boast of the parts that are irreplicable.

You are irreplicable.

The thing people want is your perspective, your point of view, your experience.

I don’t need your perfect sentence or brushstroke or tendu – I need you. We need you. And all the beautiful messy imperfection that comes with it.

That’s what is (dramatic pause) interesting.