When you think about the depths of all you want to share with a partner, it’s easy to feel discouraged when that doesn’t happen right away. After all, how will you even know if this person has what it takes to go deeper with you emotionally if you can’t get past talking about the surface-level stuff?
You may meet a new person and sit back to wait and see if depth unfolds naturally. You might be looking to see if that person has what it takes to get you to open up. (Or if they’re even interested.)
But did you know there’s another way?
Lots of people operate on the surface level of conversation because it’s what’s comfortable, not because it’s what they really want to talk about. The weather, what happened over the weekend, the project you’re tackling at work – all the ins and outs of daily life pretty much keep the conversation on the surface.
Going a layer or two deeper calls for getting into how those things feel. Gulp.
Yep, that’s right, if you want a deeper connection, you’re going to have to start talking about your feelings…and his.
Name what’s going on.
When there’s an established pattern of how you interact with a particular person, it could feel odd or awkward to dive into a “How does that feel?” question. If that’s the case, it helps to be really overt about what’s going on for you.
“Hey, really-awesome-dude-that-I-want-to-get-to-know, one of the things I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I tend to get bored and lose interest if I stay on the surface level of conversation for too long (mostly because I know there is so much more to people!) Are you cool if we dig a layer deeper with our interactions?”
This doesn’t have to be just with potential partners – you can do it with anyone where you’re looking for an interaction that has more depth than what you’re currently experiencing.
It’s not all or nothing.
Once you’ve named it, if that felt necessarily, or not, you can jump right into the feelings. BUT, wait. That doesn’t mean that this is the time to start divulging every secret about yourself that exists.
One of the reasons that independent ladies like you stay guarded is because you feel like it’s all or nothing. The Berlin Wall or borderless East Germany/West Germany. It is possible to let down your guard incrementally, while at the same time gauging how much he’s willing to share with you.
It doesn’t have to be all, “Oh, the sun is out!” or “My parents run a crime ring and I’m constantly avoiding the police,” – there can be a gentle in between. Start slow, and take the conversation into little dips below the surface.
Dip your toe in with questions.
Player 1: I’ve been working late every night to finish a project under deadline.
Player 2 (you): What do you like about the project? What will you be excited to move onto when it’s finished? How do you keep yourself sane when you’re working really hard?
Ok, don’t ask all of those questions, but choose one, maybe follow up with another if it fits.
Your questions don’t always have to be in response to something. Note the difference between a question like, “What are you doing this weekend?” and “What are you excited about doing this weekend?” Those two questions elicit rather different responses. One has a completeness to the answer that can be offered, the other opens up possibility for a lot of other things to discuss.
Dip your toe in by answering more completely.
So, let’s flip the script a little bit. When someone asks you a question, how closely do you stick to answering just the thing they asked?
It’s easy to get caught up in the auto-response. “I’m fine,” “It was good,” “Today was really busy.” All of those responses are probably accurate, but they aren’t giving someone an accessible way to get to know you.
Next time someone asks about your day, try expanding on fine. What’s the thing you’d really like to share? “Work was challenging today because I’ve been having some difficulty getting on the same page as a one of my supervisors lately about expectations.”
When a date asks you what you did over the weekend, take up some space to answer. “I went water skiing on Lake Washington. You see, my brother and I have been in this challenge of doing summer sports during the winter for the last three years. It’s a way that we stay connected to each other during the months that we both like to hibernate. It started with doing the Polar Bear Dip on New Year’s Day. Oh my gosh, I’ve never been so cold in my life!”
Here, instead of the conversation stopping at “I went water skiing,” it has a lot of places to go now. You’ve dropped plenty of other breadcrumbs of things to talk about. But the breadcrumbs aren’t just run of the mill things to talk about, they are actual things that you care about, that make you who you are.
Ok, your turn. What’s something you could do to shift the level of depth of the interactions you’re having? What do you want to share about yourself? What kinds of things do you want to know about a potential partner? Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re going to do!