The lost art of fine conversations

Conversations after all the binding paste for several things. For a relationship to blossom. For a transaction to take place. History to be passed on. For societies to mature. For lessons to be learnt. Developing people and building a cultures Not to speak of building cultures in an organisation.Of course, The Cluetrain Manifesto took it to a different height altogether stating “Markets are conversations”. ( Incidentally, have you read the New Clues?)If we just hover around the topic of having good conversations, one on one, or even amongst a group of involved friends, how would it be? Think of a good chat you had with someone. Where you spoke and he or she spoke your hearts out?

Flowers

Wouldn’t it be nice? When did you last have such a conversation? How many times in the recent past have you had such involved conversations?If you have had such a conversation in the recent past and are prone to having such conversations often, then you can count yourself amongst a lucky minority in the world. For the world in itself is increasingly bereft of good conversations!It is a travesty isn’t it, when what makes societies and communities accorded lesser importance, in a world where everything is getting ‘smarter’? I have a premise : The power and the need for having deep conversations is seriously underrated.

Oftentimes we feel a vague sense of not connecting to family members, to teams we work in or organisations we converge at, there is a vague feeling of loss. A feeling that something is amiss. Not often, however, is this question pondered over : When was the last time I SPOKE to someone? I write ‘SPOKE’ in capitals, for it is not the same as having a dead ‘how is the weather’ or ‘we should strive for world peace’ conversation.

It could be five minutes or fifty minutes. Maybe five hours, where not much is spoken, and the presence speaks. What counts is how genuine is the interest shown in knowing more about the situation and the person. Its about revealing parts of oneself. Its being in the moment, with the other person.

a reciprocal dance of self-exposure through alternately questioning and telling based on curiosity and interest writes Edgar Schein in the Humble Inquiry. My post on the book is here. That is an eloquent call out for good conversations.

The trouble with an aspect like ‘conversation’ is that it appears very simple! It is indeed simple. So simple, that its importance is missed. Given the distractions that our everyday world offers and the preoccupation that several of us have with ourselves, it is not easy to have good conversations.

Yet, it is at the centre of our modern day existence! Where ‘inter-dependency’ is a necessity that doesn’t require any reinforcement. Good conversations provide us with the opportunity to move from being mechanistic to being truly alive. To deal with ‘colleagues’, ‘family’ or ‘team members’ or ‘boss’ much beyond the shallowness proffered by the literal meaning of the word. It means interacting with another live human being.

 Organisations offer multiple formal opportunities for good conversations. Yes, they carry different labels like ‘appraisals’ or ‘development’ or ‘coaching’. In essence they are conversations!I chanced upon this wonderful Harvard Business Review piece titled “Leadership is a conversation” . If you haven’t read it before, do take the time to read it. If you already have, do give it a read again. . (The same authors have another piece titled “Conversations can save companies“. The aspect making talk happen is a leadership responsibility. That stood out.). The piece by the authors is fantastic on many counts. Putting together a need for a communication model that is ‘intimate, interactive, inclusive and intentional’ is powerful. Those are in any case tenets that make a good conversation between two people. When you imagine conversation as the basic thread that makes the weave of a community, a society or an organisation, you realise that it needs to be accorded far more importance than what is accorded now.

I hope this reaches you. In case it does, we sure must talk about it!

2 thoughts on “The lost art of fine conversations

  1. Ruchi says:

    I am one of the lucky few to be surrounded by interested conversationalists. Physically and virtually. If you look at literature of the 19th century, it mainly focuses on conversations as that was the only thing they had. We now have social networks, which instead of promoting deep conversations, hover on the trivial. Incidentally, I and my husband had a very good conversation on your WIN speech. Thank you for the conversation topic.

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