Just before she boarded the plane that would take her home, our friend Sally sent us this text message:
“My heart is so full after spending time with you. Thank you both for our long-lasting and profound connection!”
Sally’s visit to our winter home in Florida was the first “quality” time we had spent together in over twenty years. After many years as close friends early in life, our delightful relationship had been interrupted. We had continued to share Christmas cards and very occasional emails, but we’d had no real conversations and spent no real time together in person for two decades. A couple of years ago, we both attended a friend’s wedding: that chance encounter broke the ice a bit and put us back on each other’s radar screen. We realized we had all been missing what we had once had together. So when Sally reached out and offered to visit us this month, we jumped at the chance.
In planning to host this weekend together, my wife Colleen and I had considered whether we should plan to go to a show, a concert, or an arts fair with Sally. We quickly got clear that what we all wanted most was just to spend time talking to each other. Certainly, good food and wine would be involved, but what we craved most of all was connection, not entertainment.
We ended up talking for about 22 of our 30 hours together—every waking moment actually. We covered a lot of territory: the past, the future, what happened that created a break in our friendship, and our separate life journeys for the past 20 years. We shared the losses we have suffered, our fears, and our hopes. The health scares, our children growing up, grandchildren being born, our work, and our contributions to the world. We looked at where we had thought we would be at this point in our lives and where we actually were. We reflected on what we had learned so far and what we still need to learn.
We laughed. We cried. We opened up some vulnerable territory in talking about our relationships, about mistakes we have made along the way, and what we now appreciate differently in life than when we were much younger. We revealed what we appreciate and what we don’t about growing older and the choices we make now in our life.
We didn’t just chat. We went beyond just “having a good time”. We rediscovered each other. We truly connected at a heart level. We filled each other’s hearts. And before we parted, we pledged to not let too much time go by before we meet again.
It’s so easy to mistake “sharing information” about ourselves for true connection when we live in a world of almost unlimited virtual connection. We are inundated with “data points” about the people in our lives—what with texting, Facebook posts, and being Linked In. Yet information is not connection. Being “up to date” on someone’s life is not the same as being in someone’s life.
A “follower” is not a relationship.
A “like” is not a hug.
And a “chat” is not a conversation.
Chatting and “liking” are like junk food calories: they satisfy momentarily, but leave us hungry for more. To converse means to “turn together”: we turn over our ideas, our feelings, our hearts to each other.
True connection is a matter of the heart, not a matter of sharing data points.
Deep, meaningful connection like this is what we crave as human beings. Hearts connected are hearts mutually open and vulnerable. This kind of connection happens when I trust you to treat my openness with compassion, curiosity, and your full attention—and you trust me to do the same.
True connection brings out the best in us. It gives us courage and allows us to really be “seen”. It gives us a space to make a contribution and to make a difference in someone’s life.
I feel “filled up”—grateful and exuberant—to my wife Colleen and our friend Sally for our connection last week.
And I am ready for my next conversation.
Take a look at your relationships. Where are you settling for “chatting” when what you really want is a conversation–a dialogue of the heart?