conversation and emotion

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we interact with others and how we perceive ourselves as interacting with others. I, personally, think that I am normally charming, witty, and engaging, particularly when I have a full night of sleep behind me. I’m able to make intelligent references to history or literature, and, to a lesser extent, pop culture (though they can be a little dated). When I’m feeling bubbly, I do feel like I sparkle in my interactions with others. On the other hand, conversation can be pained and stilted, sometimes confusing, and always a struggle when I’m in a dark place. In those times, I feel like I suck energy out of the conversation and add nothing to it. But I’m not sure how much people notice either end of this spectrum for me. It all has me wondering how much of this is real and how much is self-perception. My husband has said I’m a great conversationalist, though he perhaps notices when I’m not at my best, and I do maintain that I charmed my way into my current job. But self-perception can often lead to judgment, which is a place where I spend a lot of time, in spite of knowing how damaging that can be. I judge myself based on how I think my interactions with others went, spending time thinking how I could do better but never actually putting those constructive thoughts into action.

A recent conversation has me thinking about the power of understatement too. I was talking with someone about his childhood, and he told me about leaving home when a child and making his way on the streets. His response to my horror was, “It was hard.” He is a remarkably well-adjusted young man for having suffered through what he did, and his statement underscored both the difficulty of his life and his own resilience. I tend towards the other end, not always going for hyperbole, but generally not downplaying my stories or emotions attached to them.

Emotion can be powerful in conversation. It can enhance or undermine your words. It can heighten or relieve tension. I’m still figuring out how to effectively use emotion in my speech, though I guess what I’m still figuring out is how to control outward manifestation of emotion and use it strategically rather than letting it control the dialog.

I’m looking for a way to improve my storytelling and my public speaking. I’ve been thinking about Toastmasters, but I also think an individual mentor relationship could be good. I’d appreciate suggestions if you have any!


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