We human beings are extremely connected to one another—so much so that even one conversation can change your life. But I think that it can be very instructive and healing to think of four conversations you’ve had that impacted you: Two of them positively, and two negatively. These conversations may have occurred recently, or many years ago. Recalling them now can bring back the positive energy the great ones conveyed and allow you to remind yourself to be on the alert for (and rid yourself of) negative messages that the discouraging or damaging ones may have left you with.
Give yourself a bit of time for this exercise. I chose the word “exercise,” intentionally, by the way. Bringing back these important discussions with others will strengthen your sense of self. It’s like a short visit to a metaphorical gym for the mind.
If you’re having trouble identifying the four conversations, think of the people you feel most fortunate to have (or have had) in your life and the people you have felt least supported by. Then, try to remember the exchanges between you that were either high points or low points.
I picked the word “exchanges,” intentionally, too. The positive and negative messages that people convey to one another are a little like software patches. They can integrate with our self-concepts in wonderful ways or destructive ways. The Four Conversations is about embracing, again, the “software upgrades” and getting rid of the “software viruses.”
Once you have identified The Four Conversations, distill them down to the central messages that made you choose them. Maybe someone recognized a core talent of yours—and told you, directly. Maybe someone convinced you of their unconditional love for you. Maybe someone told you that they’d heard wonderful things about you from one of your parents, and you’ve never forgotten how warm that made you feel. On the negative side, there are almost certainly conversations that—wrongly—made you doubt yourSELF, made you feel unworthy or made you wrongly second-guess a decision or direction in life.
We are, all of us, products of each and every moment we have lived, to this very moment. Coming up with your Four Conversations is just one way to make sure that what impacted you, very positively or very negatively—and may be continuing to affect you—doesn’t go unnoticed or forgotten.
Dr. Keith Ablow