An Inquiry and Invitation Series 2: The Art of Conversation?

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Have you ever considered what makes up a good conversation? I’ve been thinking about it some this week, so am going to inquire and see what I get, and also invite you to participate. Here we go.

Let’s ask some questions first to guide the inquiry.

  1. What are some of the different types of conversations?
  2. What types of contexts do conversations take place in, and how do contexts contribute to the quality of a conversation? Or do they?
  3. Is it possible to gain conversational expertise, or are conversations always byproducts of organically created contexts? Or, is it both?

Alright, let’s consider these questions, and then see if more questions arise as we inquire into the art of conversations.

1. What are some of the different types of conversations?

I have never really considered this question before. For most of my life, I generally assumed that conversations were generally the same. Yes, the context does contribute to the conversation, which we will look at next.

However, I’ve never really separated out different types of conversations. How many can we come up with?

  • Individual conversations – not sure if conversing with ourselves counts, yet we all do it in some iteration, so it seems like it should make the list.
  • Two-person conversations – common. Conversations with one other person. Maybe, the most common?
  • Tripartite conversations – a different dynamic. Many different kinds of things can occur in these conversations, from mutual agreement, to dissention, and even chaos.
  • Group conversations – more than three people. Group conversations can be unwieldy, and also cohesively arranged. An apparent paradox, yet maybe not.
  • Familial conversations – more intimate, and known. More comfortable for some, however, for others maybe more uncomfortable. Depends on the family, and the people in the various relationships. Lots of dynamics here.
  • Team conversations – a different type of conversation altogether. Conversations that happen on teams can vary, from individual, to two-person, tripartite, and even in some contexts familial. All kinds of possibilities here.

Now that we’ve looked at different types of conversations, let’s take a look at how contexts change the nature of these conversations.

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2. What types of contexts do conversations take place in, and how do contexts contribute to the quality of a conversation? Or do they?

There are many types of contexts that conversations take place in. How many can you think of? It may seem a bit weird to consider this, however to me, that means that it should be considered. For it is inside those things that we often do not consider that new insights may be hiding.

Here are some contexts.

  • Home – we have various conversations at home, with ourselves, our kids, partners, neighbors, and friends. All of which contribute to the people we are. Yep. Have you ever thought about a conversation that way? They do. We all have a little bit of those around us living inside of us. Inevitable.
  • Work – we also have various conversations at work. Some are with our peers, direct reports, other colleagues, and customers and clients. Each of these contexts is quite different. Very similar to conversations we have at home. And, yes, these conversations and the people in them also contribute to who we are.
  • Traveling – we also have conversations when we are out in the world, doing whatever it is we do. Even simple erranding can provide a context ripe for conversation. Depends on where you are going, and what you are doing. When we are on vacation, or on a trip, we also have conversations. They may be simple and transactional, or they may be more meaningful. Also depends.

There are a few contexts then that support various types of conversation. And, each of these contexts and the people in them do contribute to the quality of the conversation, and to the context that is developed in that conversation. Both.

I’ve written several posts about creating and maintaining relationships; and quality conversations are a product of the relationships we have, and the contexts we navigate. Both.

Further, as was aforementioned, the people that we are in conversation and relationship with also contribute to the people we are. Has always been that way, and will always be that way.

It is one reason why the relationships we have, and the conversations we create in those relationships are so very important.

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3. Is it possible to gain conversational expertise, or are conversations always byproducts of organically created contexts? Or, is it both?

We are all involved in both organically created contexts where conversations just occur, as well as contexts that we create to engage in conversation. It is definitely both. Here is a fun question.

Which conversations are the most productive and enjoyable – those that are organic, or those that are intentionally created?

Depends. Really. Recently I was shopping at the local market, and out of nowhere someone asked me whether I liked a particular plant-based “yogurt” over another. For me, it was a simple question, simple answer.

However, the other person was seeking more information, quality insights. They recently switched to a plant-based diet, and were wondering which was truly the best.

In this example, the conversation takes on two distinct perspectives. For one person, me, the conversation was simple. Question and answer. I didn’t get much and didn’t expect much from the conversation.

However, the other person was taking the conversation much more seriously. For them, they were seeking to better understand something they had little expertise in; and, they trusted, because I was buying one of the plant-based “yogurts,” that I might provide insight.

An interesting thing to think about. Conversations then are also a product of how we perceive them, and a product of what we want or need to get out of them.

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And, some people in a conversation may not perceive the conversation as valuable, while others may find the conversation highly valuable. Interesting.

I do believe it is possible to gain conversational expertise inside of your own development if that is something you are working on. Yes. Becoming a better conversationalist is really all about practice.

The more you practice conversing with people, in all contexts, the more comfortable, and seasoned you will become. More robust conversations will follow.

Good conversations then are a product of several different things.

  • Your own perspective about the conversation.
  • What you want to get out of the conversation.
  • The context of the conversation.
  • The people in the conversation.
  • The type of conversation.

I believe that a “good conversation” really depends on the context and the people in that conversation.

How do we perceive it, what do we want or need to get out of it, did we get what we expected, or did we maybe get more?

Alright, that’s what we’ve discovered thus far, yet I know there is more. Here then is my invitation to you.

An Invitation

I will ask a few questions to get you started, however, please feel free to create and answer a question that strikes you as more important in regard to good conversations.

  • What do you consider a good conversation?
  • What contexts do you have the best conversations in?
  • What types of conversation do you enjoy most?

And, here is where I say adieu. Have a wonderful day, and live, love, and be well.

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