Before we even begin this little intellectual adventure, be warned that I’m writing pre coffee and contacts. Yes, you all ready that right and I’m relying on my oh so smart MacBook Air maybe more then I should to catch the errors I can’t see (literally). So here we go, a little morning brain dump/rant/concept exploration that kept me up half the night.
Now I don’t mean that in a negative way- kept me up half the night- it’s ok, it’s good, it’s important. When you have brilliant friends, as I do, you are often challenged to see and think a little differently about your words, thoughts, and actions. You are challenged and engaged to see past the end of your noise and maybe just maybe trust yourself enough to go out on a limb for something you want, even if it’s totally new and scary for you… cause you know what, you may like the outcome. Of course it may turn out it’s not what you want, but then you know. You know not because you assumed but because you did.
I know what you all may be thinking– HOW is this anything about conversation or chess or anything? It’s Monday morning and you were really hoping for a white piece about a race or a cat…. well, exactly… that’s what you would expect (and there will be plenty of those in the future) but today let’s make the move you didn’t see coming.
Conversation as Chess.
I had a long conversation last night about conversations. Analyzing conversations and looking for a potential desired outcome. The importance of paying close attention to the small details and acting no them. Answering a question not with a straight flat answer, but with another question or a gripping answer- which in turn causes your opponent (let’s keep with the chess theme) to respond- to engage you in a conversation to the death (preferably of their king of course, but you never know).
The artist in me had so many visualizations of this concept. One that I almost used was a play off the ConEd ad “Smell Gas, Act Fast. Don’t thinking someone else will make the call”. But this ended up lacking the complexity of a conversation analysis as I wanted for this post… so chess can to mind. Even though I know very little about the actual playing of the game, I have a pretty solid idea… I lost many a game to my brother back in the day.
Let’s say the piece are different words and topics you could use to start or continue an engaging interesting conversation.
The moves and strategy involved in each play is the same as the thought and strategy (new favorite word here) you involve in a conversation to draw out and reveal the interesting angles of your partner.
And that partner, that opponent who’s king you are trying to capture, is the person across the table or sitting next to you, with whom you really want to engage.
From time to time, a Pawn must be sacrificed. You test the waters of conversation with them to see what sticks… and what gets shot down quick. But they can also clear the way and begin to open up windows of opportunity for you to get something deeper from your opponent. The pawns can draw out the more interesting characters, the more complex topics, that can surprise you. Don’t always talk about the expected- the race, the cat, the job, the travel destination… but find the nugget of common interest in each one… the photo, the whisky, the charred interest. That’s where things go from flat to rolling hills (runner moment there).
These surprises are what can build exciting conversations, if you know how to use them correctly. Don’t attack in a straight line- here don’t give a flat one dimensional answer to a question that could be a jumping off point for something more intriguing. Instead, attack from the side or jump over someone to get at something more important that was just left lying around- find the sparks in the conversation, reply to something not asked but mentioned in passing and keep your partner watching your plays. Keep them on their toes so they want to know what you have in store.
These plays can go on for days or maybe they are short lived (as my games were when I was 14). Either way, each play needs to be worth the move, worth the piece, worth your time. If it’s not, both players spent time on something that fizzled out and ended up being nothing. Maybe it takes a game or two or even three to get you bearings and get some nerve to be yourself on the chess board. To make the unexpected moves and take your opponent off guard. Then maybe, just maybe that bold move, that humorous unexpected answer, will leave them wanting just a little more and a little more. You start a volley. A deeper back and forth conversation that is now more then rolling hills, but some steep inclines that force you to go to a much deeper level before you can enjoy the downhill (oops, ok again more of a running image there… but I’m better at that then chess, geeze!).
Perhaps you eventually get to the cat and mouse game with the king and queen dancing around the board, a few meager pieces attempting to stop her wrath and guard their king. A battle to the death or a draw. Where does it go from here?
Two players shake it off and walk away. The moment was fun but now the moment has passed. On to find a more suitable opponent. OR. Or these two set that board up again and play another round. Another change to engage one another in something deeper and intriguing that keeps both coming back to the chess board over and over. Even if the same one of the pair looses each time, the game-the complexity and deep interest of the conversation- that’s what matters most.
But remember… it may take a round or two to get there.
And there you have it. This may be the most intellectual I will ever be without coffee. But as I don’t see and red dotted lines running rampant through this post, I must have done something right.
I hope you enjoy. I hope you can see (at least a little) what the underlying message here. It applies to everything, to just about every conversation- every relationship.
Thoughts? Please share!