I sit in the barber’s chair and hear the snipping of the scissors as Jill cuts my hair. Having tons of things on my mind, she asks, “so what are we doing today?”. My response is indignant and I blurt out some nonsense just saying, “short”. Troubles of money, struggles with work, and my wife being out of town house-sitting all weigh on my mind. After some awkward silence for a few minutes the voice in my head gets louder and louder requesting, begging, me to ask about her day. “So how are you doing?” I finally burst out while sitting in the chair as my freshly cut hair falls onto my barber’s cape. From this simple question we sparked a conversation that jolted me from my torpor and I connected on a human level with someone new.
The secret was asking questions.
Each time she was self-deprecating, I cut her off before she could finish that thought and asked a deeper question. It was wonderful to hear another person’s story during the short time we had of her cutting my hair. “Everyone suffers and all suffering is horrible” said Viktor Frankl. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning he tells his story of being in a concentration camp, how he survived, how others didn’t and tries to find meaning in all of it. I thought at times I had a difficult childhood but hearing Jill’s stories make mine sound like summer camp. The ironic thing is earlier that day I was depressed and was caught in the vicious cycle of self-loathing. I was lost in my own thoughts and nothing I did could get me out.
The miracle of life is that we can find miracles in the strangest places. I never expected to leave that barbershop feeling so much better and happier but I did. Being willing to listen opened up a new world to me, stories that she wanted to share that others would not want to listen to gave us both what we wanted in that moment.
I find that the struggles are what connects us not what divides us.
There are numerous health benefits to talking to new people. Try talking to someone today and ask questions!
Photo by olympfoto