I spend a lot of time in my head. The vast majority of my time, really. It's a comfortable place for me to be, because I can manipulate ideas and crunch the numbers long after an opportunity has passed me by. The theory seems to be that if I just think about something long enough, eventually I'll be able to simply do it.
This kind of approach to life leads to a great deal of distraction. I notice, frequently, that it causes me to completely disassociate from a conversation I'm having with someone, where I shift up into my head and spend a couple of minutes processing and over-analyzing what is being said, how it is being said, why it is being said, and what the correct response might be.
The cost of all of this is presence. When I shift up into my head, I disappear from the present. I leave the world of connection and authenticity, and pull inwards. There is a richness to the thoughts that I experience - but who cares?
Life exists in conversation. Someone could be the most brilliant person in the world, but if they never connect, communicate and express that brilliance, it is irrelevant.
You might even know some people that operate like this. They possess a brilliance that many people envy, but are unable to communicate it in a way that is effective or receivable. Perhaps this shows up as arrogance or condescension. Sometimes it's scattered thoughts that never really present a coherent picture of what the person has access to. I have worked with a number of people that are truly brilliant, but that brilliance comes across as an overwhelming firehose of information - it's impossible for most people to stay with all of it and pull out the gold.
So, the cost of all of this time in my head is that it blocks true connection, and without that, I feel lonely.
I noticed the other day, while in conversation with my friends, a conflict forming. As a coach, I train myself to see and hear not just the content of what someone is sharing, but also the being underneath that. Someone might be saying "I hate my job and I am so ready for a new one", but underneath that statement, the reality might actually be that they don't feel respected at work and are scared that they might be fired.
Seeing with this kind of vision means that I often notice when someone is letting themselves off the hook, or fooling themselves (as well as the rest of us). But what do I do with that information? As a friend, I want to love and hold the person as truly capable - but I want to avoid being a wrecking ball and hurting their feelings.
Can you see how much is probably going on in my head when these moments arise? The other day I had a brilliant flash of the obvious: share about my conflict. Instead of trying to figure it all out beforehand, so that I could then do it, simply share with my friend the conflict that I was in.
"Hey, I notice that I'm conflicted. I'd like to share the conflict with you, but I'm also worried that I'll come across as callous or upset you. On the one hand, I love you and want to support you in whatever you take on. On the other hand, it strikes me that you are actually letting yourself off the hook. I will love you whatever you choose, but have you considered that this might actually just be another way to avoid having to take that big step?"
When we share everything that is going on authentically, it creates a space for connection and understanding. When we share not only the content of what we have to say, but also the fears and feelings that we have linked up in doing so, we become transparent and lovable.
Communication is not about figuring it all out and then saying the right thing. It's about saying what there is to say, and saying all of it.