As a mom, I have found I need to get to know my kid anew every year. When my kid was little, there was a dramatic shift in which games were fun and what was interesting to talk about. I had to reset my expectations regularly and be open to learning who he was and how he wanted me to interact with him. Most of the time, it didn’t actually seem to me that he was really changing, so much as simply becoming more of who he was.
I came to realize that this technique of being open to learning who someone is, even when, especially when, you have known them for a long time, is pretty effective with adults too. We meet someone and we know them for a few years and we think we really know them, but we only know one moment, one slice of their lives.
Most people who meet me think I’m naturally outgoing and that it is easy for me to talk to new people. In reality, people scare me. Half the time I have no idea what might be a good thing to say and afterwards I’m sure the things I said were terribly stupid, annoying or simply boring. However, I’ve come to believe that this interaction between us humans isn’t actually about me or even about you, it’s about creating some new, interesting thing in the space between us. It’s a service to put something out there. It’s selfish not to. It’s fleeting in reality, so as much as it feels like I’m vulnerable, it’s actually pretty low risk.
I practice being open to who someone is right now. What will I discover that is different right now from my preconceptions based on this other person I’ve known for a week or a month or a year. And when I’m lucky and good, I learn something new, and sometimes I get to be that person who isn’t the same person I was last year, or who you thought I was.