The other day, I was sitting in my school coffee shop working on homework. At one point a women came up and started talking to the man sitting to my left. I offered up my seat because it seemed like these two people had been planning on meeting up. Turned out, from what I overheard, that he was creating a t-shirt design for some event she was holding. I inferred that they had never met before, but after some small talk it came about that they were both from the same suburb in Ohio. After more small talk about favorite restaurants, high schools, and other general things, their meeting came to an end and the woman departed, but both had a smile on their face. A relative silence resumed on our corner of the shop; the man put in his headphones and went back into his little world.
I know this situation may seem trivial, but as I continued to do my homework I could not help but think about how this simple conversation between two strangers had changed the atmosphere a bit. What had previously been a group of indifferent students, on their phones or doing work, was briefly interrupted by genuine human connection. I want to make it clear from the beginning that I do not believe "genuine human connection" can only be achieved through a physical conversation. I think there are many types of conversations, both physical and more abstract, that all potentially play a part in the creation of an interpersonal connection. However, it is important to note these types of interactions because, especially being a college student, they seem very rare. It almost seems sometimes that people are scared to get into conversations with someone unfamiliar, potentially because they truly don't know what to expect. We are living in a world where almost everything is planned out for us, and following a specific social code keeps us from straying out of the crowd. This code includes keeping to ourselves, and staying "under the radar", protected from any attention that may fall on us. In other words, protected from conversation with strangers.
Nearly everyday in my student union, I walk past a table of two or three elderly men and women. This table has a sign on it labeled "The Listening Post." I have gathered that anybody is invited to sit on one side of the table, facing the "listeners," and simply talk about whatever is on their mind. Unfortunately, but completely on my own accord, I am unable to speak from experience about "The Listening Post." I can, however, give my opinion that I feel others may agree with. There are some days when just freeing your mind of all the thoughts and clutter makes a world of a difference. Being a habitual over thinker, I understand the struggle of getting stuck within your own brain, and feeling so completely overwhelmed. It may not be to the same intensity, but I think this feeling occurs within everyone once in a while. Truly, conversation can be a liberating solution. Allowing your feelings and thoughts to be exposed, even for a little, helps make them feel less like a burden that is weighing you down. Also, simply knowing that somebody is listening to and acknowledging you as an individual is therapeutic. So why are we so reluctant when it comes to people we do not know as well? We tend to rely on those we feel comfortable around to always be there with open arms and ears. This is completely normal, considering we feel there is no potential of being judged or turned down, in contrast to how it typically feels before conversing with a stranger. However, I have learned that sometimes it feels way better to receive a new perspective, and a new voice. This may occur even if you do not expect it; a professor or someone walking by, for example, may say something that really catches your attention. These little moments are more of an abstract form of conversation that focus more on being aware of your surroundings, but they can also make a difference.
From another angle, conversation is extremely important in more personal relationships. Within family, I think I can speak for the majority that even small conversations keep chaos at bay. Families that take time to really talk about their feelings, as cliche as it may sound, truly do have closer relationships. But some arguments are also essential! Through a good, honest argument, getting all frustrations out into the open have a way to relieve tension and further gain understanding of what feelings the other family member may have been keeping hidden. As long as an argument isn't composed of just screaming over one another or throwing around meaningless insults, it has the potential to be advantageous. I can also speak from personal experience about the importance of conversation with a significant other. Being in a long distance relationship, I have come to cherish the conversations that make it feel as if I am not talking to a screen, but to an actual person. These typically come about after not speaking to each other through phone call for a couple days. In my relationship, a kind of "mutual understanding" is one of the most important abstract conversations that exists. We both know there is no way to make the distance really feel non-existent without physically being together, so we try to focus on our own thoughts and feelings instead of relying on conversations through a telephone. In any relationship, there are days when text messages become monotonous or phone calls are short, but this does not mean anything is wrong in the relationship. Because of past and present conversations, having the ability to trust each other and understand that constant communication is not necessary for fulfillment can actually strengthen a relationship.
Overall, conversation is important. It connects strangers, may lead to finding love, and even prevents wars in some cases. We are all part of a "global conversation" that has been occurring since the dawn of man, and within this large spectrum exists millions of smaller conversations that are just as important. Take the time to really enjoy those good conversations that come along, and become aware of just how powerful they are on the human soul; every conversation is an opportunity to share and to learn. Meanwhile, I will attend "The Listening Post" and get back to you all.