As a voice actor, I receive a lot of auditions that request a ‘conversational read’. The style requires voice talent to sound relatable, likeable and empathetic. It’s the voice of a good friend or trusted adviser. As if you’re in, you know, a conversation.
It strikes me that in a time when the marketing version of conversation is so popular, our real-world conversation is decidedly not. Genuine, engaged conversation – that give and take of ideas information and feeling – is often absent in a world filled with noise and hit-and-run commentary.
Over the last two years I have advocated better conversations to understand each other, to see each other as human beings rather than opinions. Or punching bags. Find common ground.
We have much more in common with each other than we think.
So, in the spirit of better, more connected conversations, I propose this solution: Get a dog.
Uh huh. Yeah. I went there. I just said a furry, four-legged creature could be the glue that
binds us to each other. Perhaps repair old hurts.
This past June, my husband and I became pet parents to our fabulous mini goldendoodle, Ziggy. At six months, she is 17 pounds of fluffy fun, adolescent energy and hours of joy. Her interests are playing keep away – a pair of reading glasses or book, snoozing on the sofa and savoring the piquant taste of a shoe or sandal. Because she resembles a teddy bear, she gets away with this stuff.
Wherever we take Ziggy we’re swarmed by scores of people who want to say ‘hello’, often taking out their phones to share photos of their pups. Lots of oohs, ahhs and plenty of conversation. My husband and I felt like celebrities. Although Ziggy is the true rock star of the family.
Conversations start with unbridled gushing over our cute little puppy, but after a few minutes, discussion expands to vacation plans, talk about kids – because we have those, too – dog trainers, recommendations for hikes, beaches, movies, museums, concerts.
You know subject never entered the conversation? Politics.
We have so much more to share besides culture wars and our leadership void.
Those things are important to discuss, but they needn’t be our go-to ice breakers. Bringing up politics often leads to defensiveness, offensiveness and often downright aggression. They can drive a wedge, rather than build a bridge to understanding each other. And I want to understand you, even if I don’t always agree with you.
Eckhart Tolle says ‘when the dog looks at you, the dog is not thinking what kind of a person you are. The dog is not judging you.’ Let’s be a little more like dogs, stop judging and start liking people. Even the ones that are tough to like. You may even be one of those people. I may be one of them.
Listen to my Embark podcast to hear more about how you can have better conversations.