Tuesday, August 31, 2004

phonies and frauds

We long for that which is real but we hedge the bet. None of us wants to be a phony, a fraud, or to live a lie, but we fear the experience of open and honest giving of ourselves through self-disclosure, involving risks so great that we will use any role, mask, or game to insure that the wall around us stays intact. Being willing to risk the giving of self in genuine dialogue may mean being willing to try to experience a new form of reality. Identification with the OTHER gives us insight into a new reality based on the unique experience of what becomes of two people who in some way become part of each other
~ from the textbook Is That You Out There?: Exploring Authentic Communication

For those of you who have followed the plight of my Master’s degree (or lack thereof…), it probably appears to be a much more of a jumbled mess from an external point of view than it actually is. Yes, it is true that I have made several attempts to re-start my project. Yes, it is true that every time I claim to start again something creeps in to foil my motivation (there has been a computer crash, an organizational change, a heavy workload and, more often than not, my personal flair for procrastination). What you may not realize is that my focus has managed to remain consistent.
From the beginning (circa Spring 2000), my intention has been to look at how we build community in the Church. As we are required to narrow our focus… and then narrow it again and again until we come up with something very concrete to design a training program around… I landed on what I considered to be a basic building block of relationship building: initiating and maintaining a conversation. This is much more than how do you introduce yourself to someone ~ I pray that we are all at a place in our lives socially where we can make a general introduction (peppered with a “how are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?”). What I am interested in is how we move past introductions to authentic interaction that allows us to develop deeper and connected relationships.
This post isn’t actually about my project, however, though it does provide me with some motivation to write about it somewhere. I was hoping to present this idea of “Genuine Dialogue” as a springboard for our discussion group. What better way to start a conversation than with the topic of conversation itself? What makes a conversation genuine? What does it mean to present our genuine self to someone? Is it possible to present a genuine self? Feel free to invoke the power of veto on the topic, and feel free to invite a friend to the discussion. I believe the plan is to dwell on the topic throughout the month, toss about ideas as we interact with each other on a normal basis, and then set a time/place to meet at the end of the month and share our conclusions. Let the games begin!


Anonymous said...

Great topic. I'll start light I guess. Um, I think there is a moment of immense sacrifice that comes from one side in broaching genuine conversation. A moment like Abraham had putting Isaac on the altar...hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. There is that wonderful and fearful moment when you choose some part of you that is precious and dear to you, and you put it out on the altar of conversation to see what happens.

All indicators may point to the fact that the friendship has developed to a point to share such a thing, but there is still the mystery. The listener could totally cut you off, shrink back at your audacity in sharing something so personal. Or they could feel released, feel the freedom to let themselves out from behind the mask to be real with someone who took the first step.

I don't know, I think it's a tough thing to get into genuine conversation, and find that I am able to even fake it all the way through three or four hour conversations without sharing something deep about me. So, I guess that means genuine conversation always has an element that you cannot control...namely, the other person must respond in kind to your overtures of openness. Alright, I think that's sufficient for broaching the subject. I have a nifty (if somewhat incomplete) metaphor of this topic on my online blog...you can check it out here.


ps - fun question...at what point in Before Sunrise do Celine and Jesse break through into genuine conversation? Do they?

Kimberly said...

Ramon asked: [at what point in Before Sunrise do Celine and Jesse break through into genuine conversation? Do they?]
hmm... I'm pretty sure I've wondered that myself... I guess we know what I'll be watching this evening... (besides, I've been meaning to throw it in anyway since Angelika pointed out that at one point they get on the tram and get off of the subway... crazy Austrians noticing stuff like that about their own country!)

methy said...

Whats so cool about this topic is that somehow I have been talking to random people lately about genuine conversation and about what makes a good conversationalist. So, here comes the scientist in me... why don't we all try and define terms. It would be a great way to start our discussion at the end of the month also... see how we all define words like "conversation" and "genuine" and what not.

Anonymous said...

Ramon here...

So, I stumbled on this thought while I was journaling yesterday through the haze of a 48 hour viral infection: is there a necessary loss of genuity (genuineness?...no clue what the correct word is) when you are sharing a part of yourself with someone. You know, like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle...if you observe it, you disturb it's natural state and therefore do not get a true picture of how it was before your disturbance.

Are our "innards", as it were, subjected to that same kind of rule? In trying to share a part of you, trying to form it into communication that another can understand, do you necessarily change it into something other than what it is? If so, does this make genuine conversation impossible? Or do you have redefine the entire term to account for this?

Or do I think too much about this stuff? :oP

Anonymous said...

Well, gentle people, it has been officially a month since the topic of genuine conversation was posted...when/where are we going to discuss our findings? Let the games begin!


saywhat said...

Hi Kim - it's Rachel Alford. I'm probably a little late responding, but I actually just today read your entry. What a great question, and I've wondered myself what are the ingredients of a good conversation?

I'm constantly meeting new people in my job, even though it is usually over the phone. (Understanding what I do requires a long, boring explanation, so I'll spare you.) Suffice it to say, the folks I talk to on a daily basis are all salespeople and are therefore usually funny, gregarious, and - let's not forget - trying to win my business. :) I've learned a lot about conversation this way...does this sound silly? But it's true. Not that I was a conversation retard before, but salespeople as a group make a fine art out of conversation. The mechanics, the pace, the give and take...which, this entire paragraph probably just discloses me for the analyzing freak that I am, but we are talking about being authentic, right? :)

Anyway...I think it IS possible to present a genuine self, with one qualifier. I am able to present the self that I understand up to this moment. I reserve the right to change my opinions, beliefs, emotions at any point in the future. :) I think this qualifier is important b/c it rescues me from annoyingly perpetual self-analysis. I have been timid in the past b/c of self-doubt.

And I have been timid in the past due to a desire to please. Interestingly, my desire for approval worked in opposition for my desire for community. When I gave up...correction, as I CONTINUE TO give up my desire for approval (or recognition or popularity), I am freed to truly assert myself. Furthermore, I am freed to truly KNOW myself, b/c I don't censor anymore. I mean, I'm not gonna drop the f-bomb in front of my grandma or anything...but you know what I mean. Hopefully. :)

Anyway, these are just a couple of thoughts. Hope you enjoy.

And, in the spirit of self-assertion (hardee har har), here's my blog...

Kimberly said...

in the spirit of procrastination, we will be meeting to discuss the topic on Monday, October 25 at 6:30pm @ the IHOP on University. please join us!
Rachel ~ I'm coming to visit your blog - put the coffee on!