This week, I have a guest post from my friend, Alvaro Morales! Alvaro and I had an hour-long chat about a few things in a new format that he has been using to connect with folks, and it’s absolutely amazing. He calls it ‘Conversational Interviews’. I hope you’ll find his post exciting. Off to Alvaro.
Every 2-3 weeks, I like to meet up with a friend or friend-of-a-friend with the intent to have a guided conversation about a particular topic. I’ve come to call these “Conversational Interviews” as they are casual explorations of a particular person’s thoughts. I don’t post the conversations in a blog or record them as a podcast, I do these for no other reason than because I find them fun and enlightening.
Recently, Abhinav was nice enough to be the focus of one and with him, I had one of the most fruitful conversations yet. He has since asked that I share some of what I have learned since starting this activity and even though I’ve discovered so much in just a small amount of interviews, I’ve compiled the 3 most general things I want to share.
1. Learn to converse with a purpose
What I have found is that there is a concept of “natural” in conversations. A “natural conversation“ is one that just comes about with no intended direction, a result of a random flow of ideas between people. There is nothing wrong with this, but it does create the idea that to try to have an explicit direction as you converse is “unnatural.” This is a limiting belief.
We all have ideas in our minds and to be able to sit down and divulge these thoughts is productive for digesting them. Only having undirected conversations means there is no guarantee that you will ever talk about a burning idea with someone else and gain the feedback to develop that idea. By having these interviews, I was able to hear alternate perspectives about topics occupying my mind and get more insight than I could have done by my lonesome. More on this in #3.
I’ll be honest, the first few interviews I did felt somewhat awkward at moments, but that was because I didn’t yet know how to converse in a focused manner. I didn’t know how to direct a conversation towards the areas I wanted to explore. However, I did get better rather quickly, and as I did, I was able to have intensely focused conversations on ideas that would likely never have surfaced naturally, some examples include “The Meaning of Adulthood,” “Why We Do Things?,” & “How to Think About Time.”
Not only are these insights incredibly valuable but I have found that this skill has many alternate applications as well. Interviews, academic discussions in school, project planning are all areas where conversation, for the most part, should be guided and it is almost always beneficial if you’re the one that knows how to guide them.
I’ve even been gaining the ability to turn a free-flowing conversation into one with direction when I hear something that particularly interests me. Even if you don’t want to interview people, I highly recommend trying to incorporate more guided conversations in your life to understand that there is more than one way of conversing.
2. The people around you contain more knowledge than you know
We are thinking creatures that on a daily basis have many, many thoughts. You probably have concepts that you have thought about several times over, ideas that you have refined in your mind, and ideas that may have never been shared due to the opportunity never occurring. Now think about all the people you know and all the honed ideas they have in their mind, all the wisdom that has never been shared. This is what I have discovered by starting these interviews.
People that I may have interacted with on a regular basis have mountains of interesting ideas that I would never have known had we not sat down to discuss them. When I pick a topic for an interview, I do choose something I think the other person can talk about, but in these conversations, the ideas I hear them unravel are so much more profound than I could have expected.
This truth also has a side effect. If we find fascinating ideas being held by the people we surround ourselves with, people that are like ourselves, then we too must have our own set of ideas fascinating to others in which we may not realize. This concept may not have the most tangible benefits, but it makes me feel good to know I’m surrounded by captivating people, people that aren’t much different from myself, so I would encourage you to cultivate that understanding as well.
3. Your brain is like a little lab.
A month ago, I read a story about a nationally-funded lab that, although now decommissioned, was responsible for a great sum of technological innovations. What I found interesting was their way of operating was not to have the best minds of a particular field working together on a team, but instead to have many different little labs all researching the same subject. The idea was that one lab would probably become focused (and almost stuck) on a particular approach they thought would be fruitful, but, having many teams running in different directions allowed a greater exploration of the field and led to many more innovations.
Our brains too are like little labs. When we think about a specific subject, even if we try to think about different approaches, we inevitably become biased to certain thoughts and find ourselves thinking about the same idea in the same way. Because of this, long-held beliefs of mine have undergone the most growth through engaging in these interviews. When my brain, my own little lab, gets the opportunity to hear the thoughts on the same subject, but through someone else's entirely different perspective, it gets new information to consume and add to itself.
I’ve heard ideas that instantly made sense of concepts I was struggling to understand, approaches to things that I would have never conceived myself, and also ideas I don’t agree with. Regardless, this influx of new materials has allowed my own ideas to grow at rates that I couldn’t achieve by myself. If you have ideas and you want to develop them further for whatever reason, I have learned that talking to others is critical in honing them into something great.
That’s all I have for right now. I understand that these lessons I have learned are very general and apply to more than just interviews but that’s why I thought they were worth sharing. This has been my first piece of recreational writing and I certainly enjoyed it so I hope you did as well!
For any questions at all, feel free to reach me at my email: email@example.com.
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Our Commonplace Book
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Until next time, folks,