Today’s prompt was to write a post based on a real-life conversation. Have you ever had a conversation so impactful that you could look back on it later and realize that it was a major turning point with significant, tangible effects? I’m pretty sure everyone has experienced this at one point or another. Such conversations can be wonderful or horrifying depending on their content, and they may come in many forms and give many different results.
Some conversations have lasting impact because they cause something to happen, either directly or indirectly. Last winter, I called a local business owner in my field, hoping to ask for some advice on getting started in the industry. Instead, he offered me a job – one which I still hold and enjoy today. A little less than a year ago, I stopped to chat with one of my rink’s skate guards (like lifeguards, but for public ice skating sessions) before teaching a group class, and my ended up becoming ice dancing partners for the better part of a year. Conversations like these are simple cases of cause and effect, even though the effects are sometimes not what you anticipated.
Other conversations impact you on a more psychological level; their influence can be every bit as tangible and long-lasting, but the cause and effect relationship is more complex. Think of something that you spend a lot of time working on – a skill, a project, an idea, anything like that. Then pick someone who is really awesome and successful at the thing you’re working on; if your dreams about your pursuit came true, you would pretty much be this person. Now, imagine that this person tells you that they think you are doing amazingly at this thing you both do, that they’re impressed by your progress, and that they think you can totally be like them if you keep at it.
Yes, that is something that actually happened to me. This conversation had an immediate psychological effect on me. I’ve felt more confident in the relevant pursuit since then; I take myself more seriously because someone who is very accomplished and knows what she’s talking about takes me seriously.*
Following that conversation and in that same spirit, I now really try to take compliments to heart when I’m lucky enough to receive them. Whether it’s a stranger telling me they enjoy my skating or dancing, a boss praising my work, a friend congratulating me on an achievement, a reader being impressed with my writing ability, or a coach commenting on how much I’ve improved, these words have power. You can’t always completely determine the course of the conversations you take part in. At best, you can only control your half of the words and ideas, but you can always control how you react to what is said. When a conversation has the potential to affect me for the better, I’m going to do everything I can to harness that power. It can be a difficult thing to accomplish, but I think it is vital to allow yourself to really feel, and feel good about, the positive conversations you take part it, no matter whether you are giving the compliments or receiving them.
*In case you’re thinking that I’m some wide-eyed fan attaching way too much significance to a one-time encounter, that’s not what’s going on here. I’m not talking about an Olympian who saw me skate once, an important scholar I met briefly at a conference, or a celebrity who signed an autograph. I’m referring to someone I see on a regular basis and who knows me and my career very well – someone definitely in a position to speak about me and my potential with authority.