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For the time-challenged individual, attention is the most sought-after commodity, not time. Uninterrupted, undivided attention is only possible if there are no competing events and no distracting thoughts.
This kind of attention is a pre-requisite for quality conversations to take place.
A conversation is a two-way communication. Quality is not determined by length but by value. To have a quality conversation, the time-challenged individual must first set aside time. The two parties to such a conversation must give each other undivided attention.
In the last two weeks of travelling around England and staying with five different friends, I have had many quality conversations. Had I returned home to my usual routine, I probably wouldn't have had the time or the attention to give to my friends. Why not? The logistics of having to meet somewhere and the convenience of phone calls often prevented me from spending a longer period of uninterrupted conversation such as that availed to overnight stays.
The ease that e-mails and phone calls offers to communication reduces the need to meet face to face. However, this reduces communication to the one dimension of what you see or hear. In face to face conversations, you use all your senses. And quality of the conversation improves.
Here are some of the quality conversations I had in the past two weeks:
I flew to Gatwick Airport and met with my life coach/author friend for afternoon tea. A couple hours into the conversation, we hit the jackpot - to work on a workshop together. That evening, at a roulette house party, I met someone who was also born in Brunei. I wanted to know more about the place of my birth. The conversation continued the next day.
From Surrey, I moved to a frightfully convenient flat near London's embankment. My American friend and I talked after a Wigmore Hall harpsichord and recorder concert and over a Portuguese seafood dinner, in which she imparted valuable advice about financial planning.
Over an early dinner in the ancient town of Bath, I caught up with a classmate from Landmark. I found the name of his company in Google just seconds after I booked a one-way train ticket from Waterloo to Bath Spa. He was one of the few classmates I still kept in touch after the personal development courses I took last year.
In Bath, I slept in my pianist friend's music room, on the floor next to her five foot Steinway. It inspired me to play the piano again and compose vigorously while she attended to her busy schedule. We shared our current challenges in life and reminisced how we almost shared a house together. It was good to see her finally settled and happy.
Returning to London, I stayed in an empty three-storey house in Fulham. From that base, I made my way to Ealing, Hanwell, Hampstead, Baker Street, Kensington, Piccadilly, St James Park, and other places in London. Over dinner, lunch, a cup of tea, cocktails, or just fresh air, I conversed with my friends and neighbours.
And I treasure those face to face get-togethers for the quality conversations that resulted.
1 February 2004 Sunday
Conversations with tapas
Conversation in Wells
Lunch time conversation
Conversation with a DJ
Interesting conversations with interesting people
From neighbours to friends