In the title of this message, I have posed an impossible question. I have asked you to somehow determine, in advance, whether or not you will engage with someone in a conversation today that may change a life… theirs or yours! So why would I ask an unanswerable question? Well, it’s to challenge you to think, and to be more engaged in our everyday interactions.
Here’s my contention: any one of us may have a pivotal conversation at any time; but we may or may not recognize it at the moment. This happened to me a dozen years ago when I nearly left Extension after my application for promotion from Educator II to III was voted down. I felt like a failure; and I decided I must not be cut out for Extension… an organization I had grown to love. But one evening at 4-H Camp Graham, Jeff King took a little bit of extra time to talk with me, explain the disconnect, and share a personal story that was similar to mine. That pivotal conversation changed the course of my career.
In Urban Meyer’s book, Above the Line, he presents Jack Canfield’s idea of E+R=O. An Event happens, we Respond, and the Outcome results. Jeff King had my “event” land on his doorstep. He responded, not just because it was his job, but with care and insight and attention. That changed my “outcome” and indeed my life.
So we may not know when a pivotal conversation is coming. But join me and let’s challenge ourselves to step-up our game, to be more present in conversations, to be a more active listener, and to truly give attention. I often struggle. But by keeping it in the forefront of my mind, I will hopefully improve and be able to help others as I have been helped.
Please take a moment and think about a pivotal conversation you have had. Then challenge yourself to be on the lookout for opportunities each and every day.
Brian Raison is an Assistant Professor and Extension Field Specialist for Community and Organizational Leadership.