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High, low, flamingo - Commit to conversation starters when one doesn't exist

I am willing to bet that I have made red beans and rice more than a thousand times. I am not great at much, but when it comes to making red beans and rice, I would consider myself Premier League material after 40 years of mastering my skill. Yet, if the batch had included some of Zummo's Party Time Links, it could have been my best batch. Being this successful with a batch and in conjunction with sub-optimal sausage, I would say that this was something different that I encountered this week.

My teenager won't talk - conversation starters

My oldest daughter is 18, and when she was around 12, I started getting short answers to my questions. I would ask, how was your day at school and she would respond; fine. I would ask, how did you do on your English exam? In return, I would get an insightful, complex, and exquisite response. Good. 

Teenagers are exploring their independence and place boundaries on what they want to share. “Fine” can be their way of saying, “A few years ago you were my main source of social interaction and I included you in virtually everything that was going on in my life. But now as I’m getting older I’m relying on friends more and I don’t feel like engaging in a conversation with you about this topic. Rom Brafman PhD., ACS On-Campus Counselor

I am not alone in saying that teenagers have endless one-word answers. Vividly, I remember struggling to get responses that could build into a conversation, not-to-mention, good father-daughter bonding. Frustrated, I remember eventually calling my mother for advice, only to hear, yeah, you were the same way. 

An approach to create conversation

Upon doing some research, I came across a tool to incite conversation. I am unsure of the source and was unsuccessful in finding it to reference for this blog. However, the effectiveness of this approach is proof of the value of three. The process goes 1. Tell me something new, 2. Tell me something different, and 3. Tell me something you read.

My daughter and I had committed to discussing the three questions daily. It built a conversation, a dialogue that breached a ceiling of 30 seconds, and the aspects of trust we both desired. Damn it, we started talking. We connected and built the relationship we both were struggling to maintain.

How COVID impacted engagement

During COVID, I began to face a similar challenge. Beyond our immediate family, we were all learning how to create conversations and maintain connections without jeopardizing the culture of an organization within the framework of this new thing called Teams. I quickly noticed that my team was morphing into conversations similar to those of my teenager and myself. With a quick pivot, we institutionalize a weekly routine of telling something new, something different, and something read. It did require a commitment, to overcome the insecurities that COVID was creating. This rebounded the organization from the COVID rut and made the conversations dynamic. We secured the foundation of the team with an alternative approach to connecting.

High, Low, Flamingo

I brought this up in a meeting recently, and a co-worker said this was similar to a High, Low, Flamingo activity that his family had known about. Here too, I was unsuccessful in finding a reference to this strategy to give the deserved credit for this blog. However, the process would have family members share their daily gratification, something that made them upset, and something completely off the wall they experienced. High, Low, Flamingo. Three is a magic number.

Three is a magic number
Yes it is, it's a magic number
Somewhere in that ancient mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number
The past and the present and the future
Faith and hope and charity
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three as a magic number - Bob Dorough, Three is a Magic Number

We should all strive to challenge the lack of conversation and embrace the value of dialogue. Whether it be the new, different, and read, or the high, low, flamingo… make a conversation by establishing a process. Make the act of connecting a habit, regardless of the comfortably. The commitment to the process will return the value. It is not asking a lot; just find three.


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