cover art of How to Use Memorable Conversations to Create Friendship podcast episode with Coach Lee Hopkins

Join this conversation with Coach Lee Hopkins to learn how to use memorable conversations to connect with people and build friendships.

Coach Lee Hopkins (he/him/his) is a transgender man who helps people create lasting friendships. After struggling with loneliness most of his life, he’s tried various ways to resolve it— including moving across the US to find his tribe and fit in. He’s learned that the key to creating meaningful relationships is not “fitting in” or “finding your tribe”, it’s about attracting your vibe. He’ll show us how this is possible for everyone.

We recorded this episode on April 12, 2021.

What I say makes genuine friendships is not that you understand how people feel. That’s not it. There’s another piece to it. It’s the demonstration that you understand how they feel.

Coach Lee Hopkins

Your Challenge Invitation

Next time you find yourself in a situation where you want to use conversation to spark a friendship, start off by talking about something that’s important to you. Then notice the reaction of the person you’re talking to. Do they respond positively and connect to the topic? If they do, this is a spark that gives you one thing that you can start to connect on. If not, explore another topic and look for that spark of connection. You won’t find a spark in every conversation, but you do need to pay attention to notice the sparks. The more sparks of connection you have with someone, the better the chance that you can build a friendship with them.

If there is someone that you already have many sparks of connection with, reach out to them to build on that spark and invite them to meet and get to know each other. (It’s okay to let people know that you’re interested in a friendship with them.)

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

When you have these conversations that invoke some kind of intense emotion and you understand each other, you become connected. – Coach Lee Hopkins

Similar Episodes

Timeline of the Chat

02:15 – What are memorable conversations and how do they build friendships?
06:39 – Creating memorable experiences and conversations
12:09 – Close Connection call roleplay
24:51 – Reflecting in conversation to build connection
30:47 – How to Reach out to a friend interest
38:22 – The Three Types of Connections
51:09 – Pick Up 10 Tips for Memorable Conversations

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we need to understand our own emotions first before we understand anyone else’s. – Coach Lee Hopkins

Things events and, and places they make conversation, but how you feel about those things really makes a connection. – Coach Lee Hopkins

Transcript of the Episode

[01:04] Why focus on memorable conversations?

[01:04] Damianne President: Earlier in the season, I’ve had several conversations with guests about active listening and about the importance of communication in relationships. And so this current mini series that I’m talking to you as part of is focused on friendship, which I shared with you earlier.

 I’ve been talking a bit about how friendship requires both shared experience and also conversations with each other. And so I was really excited when I saw your email about memorable conversations. So let’s start there. Why do you focus on memorable conversations?

[01:40] Coach Lee Hopkins: Well, you know, memorable conversations, it makes it stick. You know, those are the things that really keep us connected. We want to remember people. We want to keep them close to us and the things that impress upon us something, and I say something because all of us are different. When we impress upon something, we stay with that person and we want to keep them close. So I’m over here waving my hands and putting them up like, oh wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. There’s so much, that’s so loaded right there. And it’s so broad and I want to bring it down to a more tangible piece if I could. 

[02:15] What are memorable conversations and how do they build friendships?

[02:15] Coach Lee Hopkins: When I say memorable conversations, I mean ones that invoke some kind of emotion. Those are the conversations that really keep us connected. And it could be an emotion that’s joyous. We hope to have one that’s joyous; that connects us even more. We want something to remember.

So let’s say anger, you have a conversation. You don’t want your friendships to be full of anger, but it will impress upon you something. If you’re a people pleaser and you want to help somebody who is angry, that’s going to stick with you. And if you actually help that person through this anger or through this sadness that they have, that’s going to connect you even more. So when you have these conversations that invoke some kind of intense emotion and you understand each other, you become connected.

[03:03] Damianne President: Yeah, this is interesting because in some of my research about friendship, there are different dimensions that researchers use to measure friendships. And one of them was the intensity of the friendship. And as you were speaking about making impressions and about emotions, it’s also making me think that the intensity of the experiences that you have also contributes to how deep the friendship is that you can create.

[03:29] Coach Lee Hopkins: Absolutely, absolutely. I joined the military, and I only put that out there because it’s one of those experiences where they say you build these friendships that are supposed to last. It’s because you’re doing these intense things together, invoking these intense emotions. One of the things that they make us do is go into a gas chamber and we take off our masks and we cough and we get like the CS gas, which is just tear gas. We inhale all that stuff. And that’s a rare event. And you go in there with someone who has the same experience with you. And we talk about it together. When we’re having coffee together and we’re talking, you remember that time?… People around this really can’t relate to that, but we are connected through this experience and it’s pretty intense because not many other people have that experience.

[04:23] Damianne President: I like how you talk about it being specific to different people too, because I have done so many different trips with friends and I’ve forgotten a lot of the different things that we’ve done too, but I remember some of them. And one of them, it was a trip to Turkey where we had to climb on these ladders to visit those stone churches. And I’ve visited stone churches in other places where it’s all grey to me in terms of what happened there, but I remember that one from Turkey because I was afraid, like I’ve had a fear of Heights. And I remember saying to my friend, oh, go ahead of me and I will make it up this ladder, or stay behind me but make sure that I don’t fall on you and throw you down this ladder. So it’s interesting how that emotion really does help us create that memory.

[05:17] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yeah. Exactly. And as you just shared, this feeling of fear, if I wanted to connect to you and I want it to be a friend to you, I would relate to that experience. I understand what fear feels like. I’ve not climbed in Turkey. I’ve never left the US. I hadn’t had the privilege to, but climbing up those ladders is a fearful event for you. And as you’re explaining this to me, I could connect to that and like, oh, I know what fear is. And I could perhaps connect some experience that I’ve had to understand how you feel about it and we may be getting a little ahead here, but I really think that that is how you make friendships and connection.

It’s not by me hijacking the conversation talking about how I’ve never been afraid, or I have been so terribly afraid. It’s my demonstration that I understand how fearful. It was for you, how intense that experience was for you. And when we have these conversations, we want to connect on the emotion, how the person’s feeling about it.

I can imagine being afraid of heights but I can also imagine that you were really determined to get through it, and we can reflect on your experience. And I can learn more about you when I understand how you feel. 

[06:39] Creating Memorable Experiences and Conversations

[06:39] Damianne President: What I’m wondering is, in terms of this connection and creating memorable conversations or memorable experiences, what transcends the environment. So what applies regardless of what environment you’re in and then when do we need to actually consider the environment in having these memorable conversations?

[07:01] Coach Lee Hopkins: That’s a really great question. That’s a tough one. I scratch my head here a bit. Well, I, I think that what transcends the environment or what we need first, I think, is an understanding of our own emotions. I think that the way that we can’t really have everyone else’s experience, but we can relate to the feeling of the experience. And that’s where I anchor all of my connection is with the emotion of the experience and understanding it.

So I say that we need to understand our own emotions first before we understand anyone else’s. We need to know what it feels like to feel joy, to feel anger, to feel sadness, to feel fear. We need to understand what those feel like for us, so that we can recognize it in another person and reflect that back to them so they can feel safe and comfortable with us because it’s strange. We call people sociopaths and psychopaths, if they cannot demonstrate that they understand another person’s feelings or if they react to something in a way that’s not comfortable or not familiar to you.

So it’s strange to me, if people go on rollercoaster rides and they really enjoy it because I don’t like it. So I don’t like it, but I’m also a person who’d probably want to go climb a mountain and that’d be strange to someone else. The environment is different. It doesn’t mean we can’t connect. We have our feelings about these events and we can understand how each person feels about the event.

So I understand why people go on rollercoaster rides. It’s not something I want to do. I understand that this joyous. I understand they want to wait in line for three hours to get on the ride for three minutes. Fine.

[08:57] Damianne President: You’re not really sounded like you understand any of those things.

[09:02] Coach Lee Hopkins: I sound like I’m judging the heck out of it. I know I do, but seriously, you know, it’s the ability to understand. So if you were sitting in front of me and you were telling me that you love to do this thing, that you love roller coasters, I’d be right here reflecting the joy back to you because I want to demonstrate that I understand you and I want to connect it to you.

That’s how we can get through the environment. You may have a different physical experience, but emotionally we can understand each other.

[09:35] Damianne President: This resonates with me because I was just visiting a friend. I stayed with a friend for a couple of weeks and I just said to her earlier this week I miss your laugh. I would just hear her start laughing from somewhere the flat, and I’d be like, what’s she laughing at now? And I could access some of that momentous joy from her reflecting it. Some of it reflected on me, but it wouldn’t be things that I would necessarily laugh at if I was on my own. Like I wouldn’t necessarily have even recognized, oh, that was a great opportunity for laughter. And so just thinking about friendship more broadly and the benefits to us, I think that’s really one of the great opportunities in that it allows us to access this enthusiasm and joy that may not be open to us otherwise.

[10:31] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yes, exactly. And it is so memorable. That joy that she expressed, it just was so easy for you to access, so easy for you to remember, so easy for you to return to, because it just impressed upon you this really intense emotion of joy. She expressed it and you received it and it resonated and it continued to resonate. I just really find that beautiful.

[10:55] Damianne President: Yeah. And thinking about the rollercoaster too, or those what I call crazy rides, like I’m happy to be the person who stays on the ground whole is everybody everybody’s coats. I will laugh while they scream their heads off, but I don’t need to be on the ride with them, but we can also be, we all could also be part of that experience where we don’t have to be in it together. So I think that’s, that’s very interesting.

[11:22] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yeah. Physically, you don’t have to be able to ride with them, but emotionally, you’re having your own joy being in the moment when. Yeah, having your own kind of experience watching them. And they’re happy doing what they’re doing and you’re happy doing what you’re doing and you are both your authentic selves and that’s just wonderful.

[11:40] Damianne President: Yeah. For my introverts and book readers out there, it’s kind of funny because sometimes I’ll go to the beach with people and they don’t understand that about me going to the beach means me finding an umbrella where I can read my book. And they’ll be like, oh, but you’re not going to come swim. You’re not going to come sit in the sun. You’re not going to come all of those various other things. And I’m like, no, I came to hang out with you. And for me sitting right here means hanging out with you.

[12:09] Close Connection Call Example

[12:09] Damianne President: So on your websites, you offer a close connection assessment call and the website is patterns of People can access that link in the show notes as well. Tell us about that.

[12:22] Coach Lee Hopkins: Thank you. So the offer is about close connection. It’s all about helping us understand a little more about where we are, so where we are and where we want to. So in the close connection call, the first thing I’m going to do is basically say hello. I want to make sure that we have some synergy, make it feel comfortable for you to open up to me.

So we’re going to talk about how some of your frustrations are with your connections. So what is it that you’ve tried? What is it that you want to happen? And we’re going to see if I can get you to close the gap. And it’s not something that’s going to be done on the single call, of course, but it’s about discovering the blind spot that you may not see.

I’m here to give you an objective point of view, so understanding that I don’t have anything at stake and understanding I’m the new person that’s going to see your point of view. So you’re going to explain to me what you’re feeling, what you’re seeing, what you’re hoping will happne, but I don’t have all the emotional attachment that you may have with it. So I’ll come in with a new fresh look and think about how another person might feel if they were in your shoes or the person you’re talking to and bridge that gap for you.

[13:47] Damianne President: Are you game to do a little demo with me?

[13:50] Coach Lee Hopkins: Absolutely.

[13:51] Damianne President: Okay.

[13:52] Coach Lee Hopkins: Don’t threaten me with a good time.

[13:56] Damianne President: All right then. So you get to lead for the next few minutes. However you want to take this.

[14:04] Coach Lee Hopkins: Oh, wow. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. This is, this is wonderful. So, uh, well, hello and welcome.

I, I am so happy to have you. Thanks for joining me today. We have already talked a little bit about, you know, about your day and everything, but I’m so curious now, what brings you here today? What can I help you with?

[14:27] Damianne President: Well, if I think about friendships, I guess the biggest challenge is managing friendships between the people I’ve known for a really long time, but who I don’t live near to, and then also creating new friendships. I’ve lived in an expat environment where people come and go a lot. And now, there’s been more of people going then people coming.

And so I’m at this point in my life where I’m trying to balance the creation of new friendships and deciding which old friendships I really want to invest time in.

[15:03] Coach Lee Hopkins: Wow. It sounds like you have a lot of friendships or a lot of connections to kind of consider. You’re in that position where you have more friendships than a lot of other people, you have some that you want to keep and that you want to release, and you’re not sure about those. Honestly, you’re in a great position because it seems to be a lot of demand for you.

[15:26] Damianne President: Well, I think it’s also about thinking about the intensity of the friendship. And so I think there is opportunity for close friendships still as well.

[15:38] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yeah. And I kind of see that too, based on a couple of things that you said. You just mentioned about how there was a couple of differences in the rollercoaster example and the book example on the beach. And I imagine that a closer friend to you, not that the ones who were in the rollercoaster ride or the ones who were in the water are not good friends, but you would like to share some quiet experiences with people. Is that what you’re looking for in close connection, something that’s a little quieter, something that’s a little closer to you?

[16:10] Damianne President: Yeah, I think maybe something that’s a little bit closer to me and also the proximity. I have really good friends all over the world and maybe less good friends nearby that I could spontaneously call and say, let’s go for a walk or let’s go for coffee. Or even if I have some of them, I can already anticipate some of them will be moving. So I’m thinking, oh, friendship takes time. So I need to start investing into new relationships as well.

[16:37] Coach Lee Hopkins: Oh, wow. So the challenge for you, if, if I’ve got this right, is that there are, it’s just that people are moving a lot and the challenge is to find someone who is going to stay put. Are you one also stays put, or are you also one that travels? I understand that you travel a lot, but do you…

[16:59] Damianne President: so that’s interesting because I think that’s been part of the change that has happened in my life, where I used to move every three or four years, whereas in this location I’ve been here for the last eight years. And so this is kind of different to how I’ve typically approached relationships as well, where there’s been much more of a transient nature to it in the past, knowing that we’ll both move in a few years.

[17:24] Coach Lee Hopkins: Wow. Yeah. So then it’s like a low investment, kind of not low investment, but I guess what I’m feeling right now for myself is that there’s either a fear that people are going to leave or a, a feeling that it’s okay if they do so I don’t need to invest as much in because they’re going to go or I’m going to go. That may be just projecting that because most of my life I’ve moved from here to there to there. In my adult life I’ve spent maybe I dunno, at most 15 months in one place. I just kept moving and moving looking for the right people. And in this case, it sounds like you were able to connect with some people and make good friendships, but ultimately you move or they move and you can see that happening.

[18:18] Damianne President: Yeah. So I think it’s having a mindset or figuring out how to constantly be making new friends, I guess.

[18:30] Coach Lee Hopkins: constantly making new friends.

[18:32] Damianne President: I don’t know about constantly, on some cycle anyway, because people would leave. And so if people are leaving, then that means people also need to be coming in

[18:43] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yes, yes. And with that dynamic, if friendships take time, then it makes it more difficult to have these really, really deep, close friendships. So with that said, I want to ask you a little bit about what have you tried then. Because now, you know, that that dynamic is changing for you. The pattern is changing from three years in one place to eight years to maybe the rest of your life settled in one place. And what have you tried to do to connect with other people that you haven’t done before?

[19:20] Damianne President: Not a lot.

[19:22] Coach Lee Hopkins: Okay.

[19:22] Damianne President: Um, so I have this, this thought like, oh, there are a couple of people that I’ve met in different situations that we had a great conversation and maybe I should reach out to them, but I have not done that, but that’s something that I think I could possibly do.

[19:40] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yeah, we should look at that. I would look at that right there and kind of think, well, what is it about that example? Like, if you can give an example of we had a great conversation. What is it that made you hesitate about reaching out to them?

[19:56] Damianne President: Actually mostly it’s been because I’ve been traveling and also it’s been COVID and so it’s been a little bit awkward to reach out to people and say, oh, do you want to meet. And not knowing them well enough to know how they might feel about vaccines or about meeting face to face. And so I’m not sure that this is like the best foot forward in terms of being like, Hey, let’s meet now.

I think like we’ve been coming out of it. And so the opportunities opening up for doing that kind of thing. But I do know that I also have to manage myself as well, because sometimes I’ll think about things for months before I actually do them. And then I might think, oh, too much time has passed.

[20:40] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yeah, I do recall, like, I’m thinking about this and it was like, wow, it’s so familiar. It feels very familiar to me, but yeah, I would definitely want to look at what it is that stops you from reaching out to them, even though you’re doing something else, even though you’re traveling, even though so much time has passed.

And I think it’s really easier to have someone cheer you on and say, okay, you know, I don’t have this investment, emotional investment that you do, like I’m saying right now, but I know that I’d be thrilled to have someone reach out to me if it’s been awhile and we had such a memorable conversation. If it was a memorable conversation, no matter how much time has passed, just as an example with your friend, who you miss her laugh, I’m like, well, yeah, we had this great conversation. It would be so easy for them to time-travel back to the conversation that you had, the joy that you experienced, the fun and think, yes. I want to do that again. No matter how much time has passed, if you’ve impressed upon them that kind of experience, they’re going to want to see you again. They’re going to want to talk to you again, and you’re going to have a lot more to share with them because the time has passed. You’ve done things.

[21:56] Damianne President: Yeah, I like that conceptualization of having a lot more to share with them, because I think part of the thinking was how do I know that the conversation was as memorable for them as it was for me. So maybe in the role of Coach Lee, that could also be something helpful for me and for listeners in terms of how do you know, how do you gauge when a conversation really is memorable, not just for you, but for that other person.

[22:20] Coach Lee Hopkins: It’s a great question. I love this question so much. I’m smiling so big. You can’t see it, but I love this.

[22:26] Damianne President: We can hear it.

[22:30] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yeah, you can just feel it. Okay. So that’s so hard. That’s not tangible. I know, but when you’re connected with a person, you can understand how they feel. What I say makes genuine friendships is not that you understand how people feel. That’s not it. There’s another piece to it. It’s the demonstration that you understand how they feel.

Take this example. I’m over here telling you that I had a terrible day, terrible day at work, blah, blah, blah, boss, work, coworkers. Everything’s awful. Subway transit, everything. Just the worst day I’ve ever had my entire life. And you as my friend, you say, yeah, I know terrible, terrible day. I’ve had them too.

I feel disconnected from you. You might understand. As a friend, you may understand what a terrible day is because you also have had bad days. You have bosses, you have coworkers, you’ve had things go wrong. Yes. But in this moment, right now, I’m expressing to you something and I’m not quite sure you get it.

I’m not quite sure. You have not demonstrated that you understand exactly what this experience is for me like today. The terrible boss, the coworkers, the things going wrong, the subway, the transit, everything going wrong. You may really understand what bad days are like, but you have not reflected back how you feel or how I feel. And when you reflect back how someone feels, you know, you know, that they know. And that’s how you make that connection. That’s how you know that they have a great time. So if someone’s laughing at a joke, it’s obvious, it’s obvious that you’ve had that impression on them. And they understand how you feel.

You had that impression on them. It’s funny, you both find it funny. It’s really easy to connect in that way. So that’s why we use laughter and joy. Some people, they get angry, I think. Then they complained together about things, but those are things that connect too. Demonstrate that you understand how the other person feels.

And so when you do that, and I help people understand how to do it, you’re able to make a memorable conversation, a memorable connection. You’ll know that they want to talk to you again. You’ll know because you’ve had that experience and you feel that experience.

[24:51] Reflecting in conversation to build connection

[24:51] Damianne President: Yeah. So you’re the expert here. So I’m going to flip the table and say, okay, I’m the one who have just told you about my terrible day and my terrible boss and everything has just not worked out from the moment I woke up this morning on the wrong side of bed. Nothing has gone right today, from work to my coffee spilling, to the colleague who just irritates me to the end of the world. How do you reflect back to me that you really get it?

[25:24] Coach Lee Hopkins: Absolutely. Well, there are two things that you need to remember when you’re reflecting back to people. There are two components to the conversation. There’s the data, there’s the information about the conversation, so who, what, where, when, why. That stuff. And then there’s the feeling, the feeling behind what happened.

And if I were going to reflect that stuff back to you, I would paraphrase. I would refer the data back to your paraphrase data. Oh, so you had a terrible day. I understand because your coworkers were talking behind your back. They annoy the heck out of it. Your boss was on your back too. And you spilled coffee all over yourself. I mean, yes. That sounds terrible. It sounds like you’ve had an awful day and of course. This is this validation. So the validation, of course you would feel that way because you’ve had this experience. But I guess there’s three parts. I’m sorry, I left that third one out, but there’s the data and there’s the emotion of you feel upset.

Of course you would feel upset because of everything you just said. Of course, you’d feel upset. Your coworkers are constantly getting on your nerves, your boss doesn’t understand how brilliant you are and you spilt coffee on your favorite pair of pants. Of course, a terrible day. And people were like, oh, you get me. You understand? Because that’s what we all want.

But again, we’ll take a real example. I understand based on what you just told me about, the two things that really stick out to me is going to the beach and the roller coaster, because of those are a couple of things that I would do.

And if you were just chilling and relaxing on the beach and you really enjoy that, then somebody coming up to you saying, why aren’t you in the water, that’s stupid, doesn’t feel good. Someone comes up to you and says wow, that’s awesome you’re reading the book. What book you’re reading, you know, the person doesn’t have to say that they do that too. They’re like, oh, of course, you’re just a chill person, you like to relax, you like to enjoy watching people. You like to read and in a different environment. It’s so warm outside. It’s so much better than being in a stuffy house. Wow. Awesome. I’m going to go in the beach. I’m going to go build my sand castle now. But you have a nice day.

I don’t have to be, but I do like to understand your experience and reflect it back to you. And I can see I did a pretty good job because you smiled

[27:50] Damianne President: So, okay, so just making sure we have all three. So it was data, emotion and what was the third one

[27:56] Coach Lee Hopkins: And the validation,


[27:58] Damianne President: validation. Okay.

[27:59] Coach Lee Hopkins: course based on everything you said and how you feel. Of course you’d be that way. Of course you’d feel this way. Yeah.

[28:07] Damianne President: I work in customer support and it applies there too. yes, it applies with friends, but it also applies in other types of relationships, even when there might be a transactional relationship where people want to know that you understand, that you hear them, that you feel that emotion and that emotional element, where you address, where you acknowledge the emotion of the situation is so important.

[28:34] Coach Lee Hopkins: Absolutely. If I could tell you a quick story. I live in Chicago, in Illinois in the U S and I have car and I actually had somebody tickets that I actually got a boot on the car. So I would park in places and they would just there no mercy, no mercy. So anyway, this time I got a boot on my car, which means, you know, your car stuck there, you can’t drive it. And it was actually in a construction zone.

So there’s let me, let me defend myself here. I parked in a construction zone, but the construction zone was, you know, a daily thing. It was like from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM, something like that. So I’ve moved my car before. So I wake up one morning and oh my goodness. The boot is on my car and I’m panicking because, oh, they’re going to do something with it because I’m going to construction zone.

What am I going to do? And, uh, I call the customer service. And they are just not in the mood to hear what I have to say. They don’t care about how upset or frantic or panicked I am. They don’t care. Just like, hey, you should have paid or you shouldn’t have parked where you did. And I know that but it’s such an awful experience. It’s an awful experience. I know it’s my fault, but please help me. I don’t want you to dismiss my feelings about it.

And so after a little bit of frustration, I called back again. And I got a different person who shared my frustration with me. It’s like, oh yeah, of course. You know, you might be upset, but here’s what’s going to happen. And you have to pay some money. All right, great. I’ve got it. I’m going to pay the money. But am I going to get another ticket on top of it or anything like that? And they’re like, Hey, calm down, relax. I understand you’re afraid. You’re ready to pay a whole bunch of money and you’re afraid you’re going to pay more and people in a construction zone, they may not be friendly to you, but it’s okay. I understand your feeling. Of course you’d feel that way. Here’s what you need to do. Fantastic. I was relieved. I didn’t care that I had to pay the money. I didn’t care that I had to pay that much as much as I appreciated the feeling of being heard and understood.

[30:45] Damianne President: Yes, definitely. 

[30:47] How to Reach out to a friend interest

[30:47] Damianne President: So going back to our scenario of I am going to reach out to people. I have a plan to reach out to a couple of people. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations about how to do that in a way that is more likely to get a positive response?

[31:12] Coach Lee Hopkins: Oh, yeah. Yeah. So reminding them a bit about the conversation that you had. So I would be curious about what it was that was memorable about the conversation for you, what the experience was, and try to remind them of the memorable piece of the conversation. So what was it that you really enjoyed about it? What did you talk about? Or if you can get down to a specific as possible, the experience. Can you recall one or an event that was something memorable about the experience?

[31:49] Damianne President: Well, we were talking about communication. The first time we met, we’d gone to a workshop on communication and we ended up walking to the public transport together and just talking about different movies that we enjoyed and what we liked about film and finding a lot of in common.

[32:08] Coach Lee Hopkins: What was it about it that you decided to walk together because there are probably a lot of other people there?

[32:15] Damianne President: Yeah, that’s a good point.

[32:17] Coach Lee Hopkins: Were you paired up?

[32:18] Damianne President: No, but we were in the same age group. So we already had that commonality that we seemed like we’re in the similar age. We were both from North America. So we related on those. We’re both, well, I don’t really like that term but people of color. So I think that will those elements where we gravitated to each other, when you see somebody that looks a little bit more like you than anybody else in the room.

[32:46] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yeah. And I I’d like to just say a quick side note, I guess, about that. We do that so easily because we kind of see that there’s markers or identifiers that will say that they kind of understand my experience. They kind of understand my experience and we can do that with emotion. We can relate that. And so even though we are people of color, we may not have the same experience. So then there was something deeper that kept you two talking to each other. You were talking about movies and there was something in your conversation that made you both decide that this is a person who is really cool. Not that I don’t have any other options, but I choose this person and I’d want to hang out with this person. There’s something that you kind of connected to each other that made you leave in the first place together, to chat with each other.

You’re heading the same direction carrying on the conversation. And so I would just reflect on what some of those things are. You could definitely connect on movies, the fact that you’re both people of color, the kind of workshop you were together, how you learned about the workshop and continue on about those things. Did you both enjoy the workshop?

[34:03] Damianne President: Yeah, we both enjoyed the workshop and we’d read enough on the topic that we had opinions who were both opinionated, I guess.

[34:14] Coach Lee Hopkins: Oh, okay. So you may have started talking about your opinions and then carried on and discover more about each other. Is that.

[34:23] Damianne President: Yes.

[34:27] Coach Lee Hopkins: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So if you have more to talk about or more opinions to share about, that definitely is a good opening, a segue. If you understood anything cool about the way they like movies or books that they liked, you can open up the conversation about that. I’d reach out to them and remind them of the thing that connected you in the first place, remind them how the feeling was, so the data and the feeling about it so they can bring that back to them. And your conversation because of course it was really fun. It was really fun. Remember how fun it was. And I had a great time and pivot towards more of opening up yourself.

Like I think I’m starting to move into you actually connecting with them again and having a conversation. So this looks like you opening up more of what you know, what you like, your history, things like that, opening up and sharing more of those things with them. Uh, wow.

I’m picturing… Now you guys can’t see me but there’s smoke coming out of my ears. I’m thinking about wow, there’s the next steps in what you want to share with them. So now imagining you message them. They say, Hey, yeah, definitely I’d like to hangout with you again. You go and have coffee. And now what do you talk about? Have you exhausted all the conversation? Not at all.

[35:56] Damianne President: Okay. So now I’m going to go back to putting on my podcaster hat,

[36:00] Coach Lee Hopkins: Oh yes.

[36:01] Damianne President: One of the podcasts that I really enjoy is Friend Forward by a lady, Danielle Jackson. Oh my goodness, I really should know this better because I listen to this podcast. It’s about female friendships. And she had a recent episode where she talked about if you want to reach out to somebody, then be precise and say let’s meet for two hours on such and such a date or one hour, whatever. Maybe if it’s the first time, you just give a real defined timeframe because that can make it easier for somebody to agree to meet with you when they’re not really sure about you yet, because you’re still kind of feeling each other out, getting to know each other.

And I was like, I know that would work for me. Because when people are too open with their requests, as an introvert, I’m like, I don’t know what you want from me but maybe it’s too much. And so I thought that was something that would definitely work for me.

But also, I like the segue that you just introduced in terms of, so what are you going to talk about when you meet? I want to talk to you about what are some of the themes of a memorable conversation, or are there any tips that can help listeners create these memorable conversations?

[37:17] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yes, absolutely. Well, first of all, I really like this idea of setting a time limit. That’s a brilliant idea. I think keep that and share that with people because it makes me feel like I’m less inclined to stay for more than the time. I was like, oops. All right. All right, we’re not really having a great time. I don’t know how to excuse myself, but we did only say an hour so goodbye.

[37:40] Damianne President: It’s like going on a date, right, where you say let’s meet for coffee because you don’t know that you’re going to like this person enough for dinner. It’s the same idea with friendship where you’re like, okay, let’s meet for an hour, but then if both of you are having a great time, then people end up just not saying, oh, I really have to go now. It can just naturally extend.

[37:58] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yes, exactly. That’s a wonderful idea. So then how to actually naturally extend the conversation? I think that the first is first is to getting to know yourself. I have a course called Understanding Connections and Understanding Connections is absolutely free. It explains how you make genuine connections or lasting connections and how they all start with me.

[38:22] The Three Types of Connections

[38:22] Coach Lee Hopkins: So there are three kinds of connections that you’re going to make in your life. There’s me, there’s you, and there’s we. Me is a connection with myself, understanding what I like, what I want, what I don’t like, my needs, my hopes, my dreams, understanding all those about myself.

Then connection with you is one of the persons. So it’s an interpersonal relationship, whether that’s one friend, whether that’s one a romantic partner, whether that’s a family member. It’s just one other person.

And then there’s we. There’s a society. There’s how we interact with other people. So me, how I interact with me, interacts with we, so how societal groups, clubs, things like that. How are we going to interact with those people? They’re all different dynamics.

So every single one of those starts with me. If you want to make a better connection with you, then you, one other person then understand me. Understand what it is that I want, my hopes, my dreams, my desires. I’d like to think of it like this, as let’s say you’re a salad. People love salads, okay. Lots of people have salad, right? Do they? See if I said I was a salad and you were like, Hmm, maybe not. Then…

[39:37] Damianne President: okay.

[39:38] Coach Lee Hopkins: we’ve got. Well, we’ve got clarity about your preferences. And so I won’t be surprised if you pass me up, you know, and that’s basically the concept. The idea is that when you get a little deeper into it, it’s about having…. Let’s say I’m a romaine lettuce, well, main lettuce with tomatoes, and olives. And that’s my salad and people who like it they’ll come for me. They’ll come talk to me and they’ll enjoy. And people who don’t will just pass it over. And what you want to do is get clear on what it is that you’re made up. So people can make those decisions and you can be okay with it.

It’s all about setting up some kind of feeling about who you are and being okay with rejection. We’re going a little further away from it, but I just wanted to share that with you because that’s important to know who you are. The reason why you want to is because you want to be able to express that for the person that you’re connecting to. So if you don’t know anything about what you want, what you’re going to do, what your likes are, then it’s going to be really difficult for you to express that in front of another person.

What are you going to talk about? I don’t know. I don’t know. What do I do? What do we do? I don’t even know what I do. I just watch TV all day. You know, most day I just kind of like stream Netflix. You know what, I haven’t even streamed Netflix a lot actually. I’ve just kinda been looking for movies to watch. And by the time I decide which movie I want to watch, I’m done, I don’t want to.

And that’s what I do. Well, great. Good luck having conversation about that. It’s difficult to have conversation without this, your own sense of self. If you were to say like, man, I love Netflix and I love all the Marvel movies and I can tell you why I love these movies. Boom. There you go.

And I like to give one more tip that it’s not just about facts. Things events and, and places they make conversation, but how you feel about those things really makes a connection. Do you want to talk about why you’re traveling? Why you’re watching this movie? Why you like Marvel movies will be so much? Well, I like them so much because I like to fantasize and when I was a kid, my dad and I, we, we played all the time together.

Something that shows a little bit about you, your personality, or the me, the why, who I am. We get talking about our hobbies and you’re getting to know more about our hobbies by reflecting. So the more about me I know, the more I’m able to share with other people, the more easy it is to have conversation and the more comfortable I am talking about the why, the feeling behind it. That’s going to make the connection for us.

[42:33] Damianne President: I saw something about the self sometime ago by a couple of professors. I don’t remember the specifics except that one of the things about the south was that there was no self. There’s no tangible self, but we negotiate self or we figure out our identity, the identity of self as individuals, whatever is intrinsic to us, but then also as part of a negotiation with all the people.

And so when you talk about the me, you, we, that idea of self being not just when you’re isolated, but how you engage and interact one-on-one but also as part of larger societies really kind of brought the pieces together for me. And then the other thing I’m hearing about is authenticity.

And I wrote down getting the right friends, and I’m making quotation marks around right because I think it’s really a matter of finding those friends that will allow you to know them and that they will know you and you will both like what you find.

[43:39] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yes. Yes. Wonderful. I’m sorry. Did you have more to say I was just so excited about that.

[43:48] Damianne President: Well, last week I talked about waning friendships. There are many reasons why friendships wane. But I think why friendships when really early in the process is because maybe people don’t like something about each other. And if you’re misrepresenting yourself, if you’re initially showing up in a way that is counter to your values, you can’t maintain that persona. You can’t maintain that facade. And so you’re setting yourself up for a friendship that will not last.

[44:21] Coach Lee Hopkins: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And I’ve had so much experience with that. I guess people pleasing, just thinking that I know what they want and need and I have to present myself in that way. And if I show myself as who I am, then they’re not going to like me. So what I ended up doing was building up a bunch of resentment, lots of resentment for the fact that I couldn’t be myself and I was afraid to be myself because they went and liked me. And then I was, I felt lonely.

[44:52] Damianne President: I just write something maybe just yesterday or it was a podcast, where they talked about how it’s so much lonelier when you’re lonely with other people than when you’re lonely by yourself.

[45:04] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yes. I really like that. It is. It is so much lonelier because not only do you have this layer of feeling like nobody likes. But you also don’t get to be just with that. You have to pretend to be something else. So you’ve got to put more energy into maintaining this loneliness and it’s, it’s quite an experience.

I think what happened for me is this. I had the fear. I really wanted to share something with another person. There’s something deep inside of me. I really wanted them to know it. That was afraid to share that with them. And because I was so afraid to share that with them, I didn’t. And while those two things are happening, all this fear is happening. Another thing came up, the fear of being alone. Like I’m starting to feel the two things that I’m doing, being afraid of, it’s not working. It’s terrifying. It doesn’t feel good. I really wanted to be able to tell somebody my truth, but I’m afraid if I tell them my truth, they’re going to hate me for it. And I’m going to be alone. And that cycle just goes over and over and over again. And another thing is coming up is the feeling that I am alone. I’m always going to be a alone, I’m always going to be alone. And that feeling of the two things that are running together, I’m not telling anybody my truth because I’m afraid and that feeling of I’m alone.

The feeling of being afraid to be alone had me act. It’s like the two things that I’m doing isn’t working. I’m going to be rejected no matter what. I’m rejecting myself, not giving anybody a chance to do that. I have to do something. And so that’s when I started telling people more about my truth.

It’s also where I realized that I didn’t really know about my truth. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know me. I was the person who’s scrolling through Netflix trying to figure out what I’m going to watch in two hours later. I hadn’t watched anything because I’m not interested.

When you discover what your values are, what’s really important to you, you will really just pick something to watch or you’ll turn it off and you’ll go do something else. Or you won’t hang out with the people who don’t like you because they don’t know you. There’s so much more to it, and I’m sure I went down a rabbit hole here, but the bottom line is that it’s fear being afraid to show yourself. You have to work to get over that. I think Mel Robin said it sounds easy, but it’s, it’s difficult or not difficult. Maybe you’ve got

[47:45] Damianne President: Maybe it’s simple, but not easy.

[47:47] Coach Lee Hopkins: Thank you. There you go. Simple, but not easy. Yeah.

[47:51] Damianne President: Yeah. And I mean, we could, our time’s almost up but as a transgender male, black, I imagine that you’ve had many opportunities and many challenges for navigating your identity and also navigating friendships.

[48:07] Coach Lee Hopkins: Oh, yes, absolutely. Really quick, I can tell you a story that kind of sums it up. I transitioned when I moved to Chicago. So new place, new identity, and no one really knew me. Nobody had a history with me. I come to this place, not know anybody. And I transitioned from female to male. I go to this barbershop to get my hair cut. I’ve never gone to a barbershop before, a black barbershop, but there’s this unwritten rule where you do not get your hair cut by anyone else but the one person who touched your hair in the first place. So I go in and this guy cuts my hair and I’m like, eh, I don’t really like it, but cool.

I come back again and I get a new guy cause old guy just happened to be out. Cuts my hair. I love it. The next time I come back to the shop, both guys were there and I’m expected to go sit with the guy whose cut I didn’t like. And I vocalized this and people were like, what the heck are you doing? I mean, audible scratch record, scratch. Get out, kind of thing happened.

I have not had their experience growing up with that being part of my culture. And now I’m here. I’m part of their culture. I’m part of this, and I don’t understand it. I’m thinking that it’s going to be easy and seamless for me to fit right in. But no, no.

I had to work my way in to understand. And so identifying with them, connecting with them, understanding why they were so upset. It took me some time because I didn’t have their experience growing up. I have a whole different experience being a black trans man. So I wish I could talk so much more about it.

[49:43] Damianne President: Yeah. I imagine there’s a lot here there that we didn’t even touch because we kept it more broad this time.

[49:50] Coach Lee Hopkins: Yeah. 

[49:51] Invitation Challenge

[49:51] Damianne President: Before we end, do you have an invitation or a challenge for listeners? So let’s imagine that people find themselves in a situation where they want to take that first step towards friendship. How can they use conversation to help them with that?

[50:08] Coach Lee Hopkins: Definitely practice. Practice understanding how you feel in the conversation and how they feel in the conversation. So what it is they said: the three things, the data, the feeling and the validation. If you find yourself thinking against them, invalidating them, not understanding them, take a little more time to breathe and try and understand their point of view so that you can make that connection.

[50:38] Damianne President: And then the worst case go find somebody else to talk to. I mean, I’m joking, but I’m also not joking, right? Like, I mean, you have to know. Sometimes when you were talking to somebody and it feels like you’re asking questions and you’re just pulling teeth. At some point you can put both of you out of your misery and move on to talk else.

[50:59] Coach Lee Hopkins: That’s true. That is super true. Right on.

[51:02] Damianne President: And if people had not sure, like what to talk about, do you have a tip that can help?

[51:09] Pick Up 10 Tips for Memorable Conversations

[51:09] Coach Lee Hopkins: Oh, yeah, definitely. I have 10 tips for memorable conversations. You could find that at I also have that free class that I offered Understanding Connections. You can also find that there.

[51:24] Damianne President: Can you give us one tip that will whet people’s appetite to go and get the rest of the 10.

[51:33] Coach Lee Hopkins: Well, we definitely want to talk more about something that’s important to us. The reason why we want to do that is if it was important to us, then we hope that we could see this reaction in them where they appreciate it. So we know we can separate these people right away. Like memorable conversation is important to us and if they love it, then we can connect.

[51:54] Damianne President: Splendid. As we end, is there anything that you want to say that you haven’t had a chance to share yet?

[52:03] Coach Lee Hopkins: No, I just had a great time. I wish I could continue having a conversation. I felt we had a great connection and I’d love to chat again. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate you.

[52:14] Damianne President: You’re welcome. Thanks for being a good sport. I did not give Coach Lee any heads up about the little coaching sessions we were going to do. I like to go with the flow of the conversation and so you’ve been splendid keeping up and taking the lead sometimes. So thank you.

It’s difficult to have conversation without this, your own sense of self. – Coach Lee Hopkins


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