Friendly Conversations

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I like to listen the comedian Marc Maron’s podcast WTF where I’ve heard him describe a phenomenon with which I am familiar. In a couple episodes he talked about running into Very Famous People at red carpet events or parties whom he’s had as guests on his show. His interviews are very personal and intimate and at times therapeutic, and he often winds up feeling friendly toward his guests. Then he meets them and isn’t sure what the protocol is. Are they friends, was that friendliness real, or was it in his head? How should he talk to them?

I’ve interviewed many, many writers in the last ten years, some face-to-face, some virtually on my podcast Author2Author. I don’t prepare for these interviews; I don’t have a list of questions or notes of any kind. I just show up and try to get to know the person, learn who they are and what about them I find most interesting. Sometimes these writers are kind of famous (Nora Ephron, Caroline Kennedy, Henry Winkler), sometimes not. It doesn’t matter. I always find the interview a friendly experience.

Then I’ll be at a party and someone will mention Caroline Kennedy, and I’ll want to say, “Oh, I know her.” Of course, I don’t really know her, but as soon as you meet someone and talk to them, you know so much more than you did the moment before you said hello. It’s quite immediate. I understand it’s not friendship, that we never call to see how the other is doing, but in those conversations a connection occurs without which I wouldn’t want to interview anyone.

Then the interview’s over, and often it’s the last time I’ll ever speak to that writer. Sometimes we meet at a writer’s conference. The author might remember the interview, or they might not. I always do. I think that’s because friendliness is our natural relationship to one another, what is always present if we stop worrying about whether we’re likable or interesting.

Whether or not I call another person a friend now is kind of arbitrary. I don’t really know how to distinguish. I’m a very private person who nonetheless writes about himself every day and will have friendly conversations with anyone if they’re willing. Whatever this makes me, introvert or extrovert or something in between, I’m okay with it. As long as other people are willing to meet me in a friendly space – at a workshop, on the page, through a microphone, on the street – I’m happy to show up for my half of the conversation.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.