Possibilities of Good Conversation

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” — Kurt Vonnegut

When I asked a group of 50 members of the Silicon Valley Organization Development Network during my presentation in June about the role of good conversations in creating change, here is what some of them said:

  • Encouraging collective wisdom to emerge
  • Expanding knowledge and perspective
  • Growing healthy relationships
  • Creating something more than and beyond what each individual brings
  • Creating a sense of shared ownership

How might you and your meetings change for the better if you thought of them as opportunities for good conversations? What possibilities might you discover if you dedicated at least one meeting or conversation a month to expanding people’s perspectives, inviting their wisdom into the room, and strengthening your relationships?

The recipe for a good conversation includes asking questions of genuine curiosity, opening to truly understand the perspectives of others, listening as if your life depended on it, sharing your highest aspirations and deepest concerns, and remaining connected to yourself and others when you disagree and when you don’t know, when the way forward is unclear. Good conversation goes to the edge of what you know and steps into the uncertain to create something beyond what individuals bring.

Perhaps there’s a conversation you’ve been hoping to have about a question you’ve been mulling or a nascent idea you’ve been chewing on or an emerging issue that is worrying you. Invite others to join you on the edge and see what possibilities good conversation stimulates.

Mary’s book—“Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time”—was named one of the best indie books of 2017.  Click here to purchase it.

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Rae Levine, a longtime colleague and friend, with whom I taught meeting management once looked at me in faux disbelief and asked, “Is there anyone left on the planet who does not know how to define desired outcomes for a meeting and build an effective agenda to achieve them?” We both cracked up. It seemed we had been teaching this to multitudes for years. I still teach both because there are many who either don’t … Read more…

Glue or Acid?

“Words are the finest invention that human beings have ever made. They build bridges and burn ‘em down. Glue or acid, that’s what the words you say will be.” So says Tyner, a character in Little Green, a novel by Walter Mosley. Think about your recent conversations. How many words used by you and others were glue and how many were acid? Bridge-building or glue words are ones that express caring, interest, and perspectives as … Read more…

Ask Really Big Questions

A participant in a recent leadership workshop asked me an evocative question: “What is your favorite chapter in your book?”. Given that the workshop focused primarily on communication skills I referred her to Chapter 9 on Six Indispensable Communication Skills in Talk Matters!. But then I paused and realized that one of my favorite chapters is Chapter 1 in which I describe the propositions underlying the practices that are the focus of the book. “They … Read more…

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