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Back in the Big Apple!

I have officially been here a month now, and, in spite of a couple dozen boxes that remain unpacked, I am settling in. These past weeks I have been exploring my new Brooklyn neighborhood, and reacquainting myself with neighborhoods I used to frequent.

My work slowed down a bit for this move, and this gift of time has given me a chance to engage in a lot of listening. I meet friends for lunch, go the the theatre, run errands, and dip in and out of several universes. Because New York, to borrow a phrase from Brooklyn's own 
Walt Whitman, "contains multitudes,” it offers me an incredible chance to listen to how people use words, tone, rhythm to convey meaning. When I am followed down the street by someone on the phone, I get a mental picture not only of the speaker, but of the person on the other end. Of course, for a playwright, this is an amazing resource to be able to tap into as soon as I walk out the door!

As a communications coach, it reminds me of the importance of connecting with listeners by speaking a language they understand. This does not mean you are a chameleon, exactly, and adjust grammar, structure, and vocabulary to match every person you communicate with. But there is a natural tendency to modify our own cadence and phrasing as we mirror that of out conversation partner. I hear that, too, when I am walking near people engaged in conversation. They speak a common language, creating a subconscious connection that can lead to real communication and exchange of ideas. But when one person steadfastly refuses to meet the other halfway--in style, vocabulary and/or tone--communication is blocked. With these people “winning" becomes the purpose of all verbal interaction.  It is an infuriating, highly inefficient way to try to get things done. These exchanges often result in a fight, or a stony silence ending the conversation. Sometimes the person being shot down/shut out storms off in anger or frustration. Not a happy thing to witness.

But hey! It's New York! There's drama (and lots of comedy) on every street!  Just listen.