Do you find that your interactions with other people – your friends, coworkers, spouse, partner, children and extended family rarely go beyond the superficial?

In our busy multi-tasking lives we exchange facts, figures, data, details, 140 characters and emoticons. And when we do connect in person or via the nearest proxies of FaceTime, Skype and telephone (the latter for those of us over age 30), the deeper discussions do not happen easily or often. Does this sound familiar? Have we lost the art of conversation?

The superficial dialogue treadmill became very apparent to me when I was travelling on vacation with a friend a few months ago. Our two-week self-guided trip of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada was filled with many wonderful hikes, sightseeing adventures and delicious meals. However, after about day three, I realized that our conversations were mostly centred on navigating the journey, choosing restaurants or planning the next day’s activities. The last two items always seemed to coincide. We would pour over maps, plan, prioritize and plot our next day’s activities while eating dinner. There was no real reflection or discussion on all the experiences we had shared that day.

“Enough already”, I said to my friend, “let’s spend some time reflecting on today before we start thinking and planning tomorrow.” I posed two questions:

  1. What surprised you today?
  2. What inspired you?

We both paused to think about our answers. As we began to exchange our thoughts, it was enlightening and enriching to re-live the day’s experiences through each other’s different perspectives. And in the process, I think we learned more about ourselves and each other. It became our daily ritual over dinner:  What surprised you? What inspired you? The memories of that vacation are very rich and probably more vivid than any other trips I have taken in recent years.

As the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend approaches, many of us will gather with friends and family. Whatever the topic at hand, try digging a little deeper in your conversations with your loved ones and in the information, opinions and ideas that you share with them. Try asking: “And what surprised you about that (fill in the blank: movie, university course, work project, baseball game, book etc.)? And what inspired you?”  Indeed, the answers may both surprise and inspire you!

Margaret Foulds, CPA, CA, PMP is Principal Consultant and President of, StraightUp Management Solutions, a consulting firm that helps not-for-profit organizations and businesses solve their most pressing structural, finance and operating problems with practical, cost-effective solutions.