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!