I am indebted to Curt Hill who inspired this conversation.
Conversations (which is to say human beings interacting through
speaking and listening) carry the power to
alter the outcome of Life.
Conversations bring forth the possibility of shifting the very
quality of Life. Every conversation is a potential vehicle
to make its
known in the world.
isn't a static state of consciousness or a frame of mind or a belief or
a concept or even a code of behavior or a place to get to.
in its simplest expression is a conversation.
Notice this: the possibility of conversations is
itself. It takes my breath away. It elates me. Simply becoming aware of
it is enough to put me into a space of ecstasy and keep me there. It's
so clean. It's so simple. It's so profound. And it's so easily
and so abundantly available.
The next thing I notice is how often I don't use the occasions of
conversations to bring forth
That's disappointing - to say the least. I see whenever there's an
opportunity to bring forth
face to face
interactions speaking and listening with people ie whenever I'm in
conversation with people, I don't always take it.
And the next thing I notice (which is even
more disappointing) is that when I don't take
the opportunity, I don't take the opportunity automatically. I
see how wired I am to not take the
opportunity. Noticing this is as vexing as it is perplexing.
I've discovered the perfect laboratory (if you will) in
this phenomenon. Of all places, it's the locker room of the gymnasium
where I work out daily. I'll call the phenomenon "locker room
banter" even though it certainly doesn't only occur in my
gym's locker room. It occurs across the board in Life.
Locker room banter comprises brief snippets of sporting news from the
day before, interspersed with a few sentences (but no more) of
opinionated political bias. That's against an ongoing background of
noisy reasons and certainty why Life as we know it is
going to the dogs. Jokes and cleverly snide comments with
a few moot points, bon mots, and non
sequiturs are thrown in. It's not exactly a
Petri dish for
The essential thing about locker room banter is it survives by self
correcting in its own favor: any attempt on my part and on
the part of others to lead into the plethora of
opportunities in the world today, or to discuss the
possibilities which could be generated to our advantage
from worldly situations couched in locker room banter, are instantly
met with ... well ... more locker room banter, laughter,
more jokes, more snide comments etc. And the very worst of
it for me is I find myself swept along with the current, flailing
against the tide. In spite of knowing about the possibility of
conversations, I find myself automatically talking locker
room banter in spite of myself: telling jokes, making
snide comments, and offering up moot points, bon mots, and non
Listen: I'm not criticizing the other guys in the locker
room for keeping the possibility of conversations mired in locker room
banter. I'm equally responsible. What vexes me is I notice how, in
spite of all my good intentions, I'm drawn into it ...
automatically. What vexes me is I notice how, in spite of all my
good intentions, when I'm in the environment of the locker room in my
gymnasium, my own conversations automatically devolve into
locker room banter, regardless of what I notice about being seduced by
its automaticity, regardless of knowing the real possibility of
Opening For Possibility
It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. I finally figured out
the opening for possibility for locker room banter. I
finally figured out the
This opening for possibility, this
not only works for locker room banter in the locker room in my
gymnasium: it also works wherever locker room banter in any of its
forms occurs across the board in Life. I'm not only speaking
about how to simply respond to locker room banter. I'm
also speaking about a way of being which takes on my own
thrown-ness to get entangled in locker room banter, bringing
forth possibility rather than automaticity in my conversations:
Listen for peoples' real concerns, then speak to them.
Listen for what matters to people - then respond to that. If they're
not forthcoming, then ask them. Instead of trumping the joke with a
better joke, instead of trumping the political opinion or sports
analysis with better ones, ask what matters to people. This is what I
started doing. The response has been amazing. There's an air of
in conversations like these. There's none of the skittish avoidance of
what really matters, which locker room banter is simply perfect for
adroitly skipping around and away from.
I ask a plumber how his daughter is doing at school. He lights up. He
tells me she's a "spoiled princess". But he says it like a
badge of honor. I can tell how deeply he loves his daughter. I
ask an insurance salesman if he's going to marry his girlfriend any
time soon. He not only responds openly (after a pause he tells me,
authentically, he's not ready yet - which is pretty bold to get into in
a locker room): he invites me for dinner, saying "No one's ever asked
me that before.". I share (when it's appropriate to the ongoing
conversation which is now sounding less and less like locker room
banter by the minute) how my working hard and starting investing early
made it possible for my three children to have college educations. The
locker room banter immediately swings away from pat,
flip prognostications for the dire economy (in a locker
room, everyone is an economist), and towards
acknowledgement and congratulations which, while seemingly directed at
me, actually capture the interests of and inspire the whole group.
Suddenly it's easy to have conversations for possibility with people in
the locker room - or, as I said, wherever locker room banter occurs.
Locker room banter doesn't matter. We all know it - even while we
engage in it. What matters matters. Re-direct the
conversation to what matters. Just
change the subject
- and you don't even have to be subtle about it. Even the most die hard
locker room banterists (if, indeed, there really is such a
word) have things which matter to them. Really they do.
The presentation, delivery, and style of
Locker Room Banter
are all my own