The Quickest Way to Kill a Conversation

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I attended a business conference a few weeks ago, and at the end of the first day found myself enjoying a very pleasant dinner cruise around the Marina Del Rey harbor with the other participants.
I met plenty of nice folks, and we shared many business discussions revolving around the topics presented by the speakers. But over the course of the dinner, the conversation at my table of eight turned more personal. This could have had something to do with the wine bar. Anyway, we soon began laughing and swapping stories like old chums as we discovered delightful commonalities in our various backgrounds – geographies, companies, scooping on industry dirt.
I decided to let my guard down and be thoroughly authentic with these people. What harm could that do? I had recently taken full ownership over my identity as a writer, and determined this was an ideal opportunity to let it all hang out, so to speak, with my new friends. No need to hide these things!
I casually dropped the word, “writer” and “author” a couple of times in association with my many professional activities, subtly alerting the crowd to my humble creative talents. Then, as the table began to discuss the next day’s travel plans, I announced with great confidence, “Well, I’m actually not heading back to Philadelphia. I’m flying out from here to a writers retreat.”
But I didn’t stop there. “Yes, it’s really quite wonderful to go from ‘all-business’ to ‘all-creative’ in the span of a couple days!” At this, I sat back in my chair and swilled another satisfying sip of Merlot. And bong-bong, here I am!
This intrigued my new friends very much, and quite possibly also elevated my status a couple notches in their eyes.
“Oh, how interesting!” said a bookish-looking woman wrapped in a black shawl. “What kind of writing do you do?”
Although I was all too ready to promote my dual identity as executive-slash-creatively-awesome-writer, this particular question I was not prepared for. What kind of writing am I doing? What do you call this stuff?
“I, uh, I write about spiritual life, and how it connects with finding purpose in our work,” I said. My mouth became fuzzy, and, fumbling for the right words, I suddenly felt as if I was suddenly speaking a different dialect.
Upon hearing this, she pursed her lips and inhaled quickly, as if she was about to respond, but hesitated and didn’t say anything at all.
“I’m a Christian,” I continued, filling in the blank space that seemed to require further explanation. “I write about how our faith can influence our professional life.”
At this, she said, “Oh.”
She then abruptly turned to the woman seated to her left. “Sheila, what do you think those lights are?” she asked, waving vaguely towards the galley window.
Ah, yes. The rewards of occupying an incomprehensible, non-existent niche in business writing.
But don’t think for a second that’s going to stop me.