Ho-Hum Chinwag

Ho-Hum Chinwag? Well that’s a strange title! I recently discovered the word ‘chinwag’. In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s what it means:
Chin – bottom of your mouth; outer part of your jawbone.
Wag – to twitch, flap, move to and fro.

What a great word to describe the wearisome, predictable jaw-movements we can get caught in. We talk, and yet, often, we say so little. Think about the questions you’re typically asked or that you tend to ask others:

  • Did you have a good time?
  • How was school?
  • How was the meeting?
  • How was your day?
  • What’s new?
  • What have you been up to?

And the most likely answers:

  • Yes.
  • Fine.
  • Not bad.
  • Fine.
  • Not much.
  • Not much. How about you?

Boy that sure tells me…nothing.

One of the foundations of my teaching and coaching is what I call the Language of Empowerment. The Language of Empowerment is about shifting common words or phrases that we use automatically, to more meaningful, more personal, and more empowered alternatives.

A core principle in the Language of Empowerment is raising our awareness to the generalities we use in our conversations. And being intentional about replacing those generalities with language that is more specific and more personal. For example, changing the general, and banal, questions in my list above to ones that will help us KNOW each other more:

  • What happened today that made you laugh?
  • What was the coolest thing that you learned at school today?
  • What did you hear in the meeting that you hadn’t expected?
  • What Was the nicest / most encouraging thing you said to someone today?
  • How did you and your boss/co-worker go about working through that issue today? What worked well for you guys?
  • If you could change one thing about that situation, what would it be?

Now I have information – insight! Now I’m getting an idea of what’s important to you, what engages you, what makes you happy, what disappoints you… Dialogue like this is incredibly valuable. Meaningful conversation and good listening form the foundation for deeper connection and trusting relationships.

My mom and I recently facilitated a retreat for moms and their teen/pre-teen children. The theme was “Conversation Changers with Your Child.” The day included an activity to practice asking each other new / different questions and listening to one another more fully. We created a printable reminder called, “Effective Questions for Evolving the Conversation.” You can download it by clicking on the thumbnail below. Give the questions a try!


And how about going one step further? As you’re listening to their answers, get curious! Carry the conversation to an even deeper level. For example: If your colleague tells you the meeting was ‘fine’ because she received good feedback about her idea, ask her what it was like for her to receive that recognition. If your daughter or son tells you s/he was disappointed not to be included in xyz decision, ask her/him what feels most frustrating about that? What does s/he need now?

Today, make every conversation more meaningful. Be intentional about creating connection and strengthening each relationship. I’ll bet your questions will not only help you to know others more, but I’ll bet they’ll get to know themselves more too.


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