You want to talk about real stuff, so you ask people serious questions like “Hey, what do you want to do with your life?”
You’re genuinely interested in their response. You want to hear their big ideas and have a meaningful discussion about them.
But in response to your question they always seem to make a joke or give you a generic, superficial response.
If this happens to you a lot, there’s a simple reason: you get what you give.
They’re deflecting your serious questions because they don’t know that you’re not going to judge them. That you’re in the same boat they are. That you have similar doubts, hopes and questions about life.
They don’t know because you haven’t communicated it. It seems to them like you just want to take. Like you just want them to open up to you without giving them anything in return.
Do people even want to open up?
If you’ve experienced this for a while it can start to feel like nobody wants to know you. Like maybe you should just isolate yourself and play video games or write music in your tower all day… because maybe you’re just not good with people.
You lose motivation for your hobbies. You lose your drive, because you feel like you’re the only one out there who wants to talk about real stuff.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In my personal experience just about everyone wants to talk about real stuff. There are 2 million people who read Mark Manson (one of the biggest blogs I know), and all he talks about is “real stuff”.
The only thing is everyone’s scared of opening up first.
Why should the other person open up first?
If I’m not deliberately trying to connect with you then why would I respond to your question with a genuine, heartfelt answer that leaves me open to your judgement, and potential rejection? Why would anyone?
Even if I did want to connect with you the risk might still be too great if you haven’t already opened up to me first.
Think about your own responses to the serious questions that people ask you. Do you go deep first?
Then you’re communicating that you’re closed off to doing so. They’re interpreting your response that way and responding appropriately — with safe/generic/superficial answers.
If someone asks you “What do you want to do with your life?”, do you tell them that you want to get famous and build a music empire (in a cool and detached tone)?
Or do you talk about your dream of playing in front of crowds who dance to your music, your big ideas for success and your doubts as to whether it’s all possible (actually allowing yourself to feel the feelings as you speak the words)?
You’re not risking anything with the first response, because your tone masks whether your response is genuine or not.
But the second response opens you up to their judgement. They know this. And now that they’ve seen you take a risk in opening up, you’ve reduced the risk for them to open up. To drop their mask.
Take the risk. Show your feelings
It’s not the words alone that communicate how open you are to talking about real stuff. It’s more about allowing yourself to feel the feelings as you talk, and to try to put those feelings into words as best you can. Because people can see you feeling things. It shows through your vocal tone, your body language and your pauses when you think.
So say the thing that feels scary to say. And do it first. That’s how you have a conversation about real stuff.