Beyond Blah, Blah, Blah – Towards A Satisfying Conversation

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Why do some conversations leave us feeling empty and lonely? What happened?

We all long sometimes for satisfying dialogue, where:

No matter what the topic, we all experience an intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying dialogue in the context of mutual trust and respect.

This article is about why conversations fail and how they can  succeed.

Let’s take a look at conversational styles that satisfy everyone engaged and those that leave us wishing we’d stayed at home with a good book!

Conversation Killers

Certain interactions smother reciprocal conversation; for example, people who:

  1. …. just want you to be their audience. The rule “listen to me but I’m not really interested in you” is their idea of a conversation. It is almost as if they did not get enough “show and tell” time in childhood and are now trying to make up that deficit by talking “at” you. Although it’s interesting initially to hear people’s stories and get to know about them, a balance of talking and listening with genuine interest in each other is essential for a satisfying conversation and real friendship to develop.
  2. …..rely solely on small talk and other superficial interactions. This can serve an important function; for example, to open a conversation or acknowledge each other in a public place such as waiting in line at the bank. However, when small talk becomes the only currency and small talk is mistaken for genuine connection, we can be left wanting. Once we scratch below the surface and go beyond the façade of friendliness and small talk, we may find little substance to the person or their ability to carry on a more authentic and satisfying interaction. We are reminded of people who only talk sports: “How about those Dodgers?” That may be good for an opener, but when the topic never changes, even after the listener has expressed their ignorance or lack of interest in sports, the speaker is not respecting the needs of the listener and the conversation fizzles.
  1. ….takes over the conversation, speaking at length as an authority on whatever topic comes up in conversation. This can be an important educational experience for the listener but when it morphs into the speaker asserting their authority on each new topic, and expecting the listener to be an admiring and appreciative audience, the only sound we hear is that of the authority.
  1. .whose body language cancels out any words that they are using. There is nothing like a person yawning, breaking eye contact, or changing the subject to let you know you are not being listened to, appreciated, or valued.

Now contrast these ultimate conversation killers with

The Real Thing

Genuine conversation is characterized by

  1. A dialogue where both parties contribute equally and listen intently. No one person dominates the conversation. He/she patiently listens to the other without interrupting or restlessly wanting to inject their point of view.
  1. A person with a generous spirit, open mind, and loving heart. These people are continually searching for the good in others and ways to validate the other person’s point of view. They are able to put their own needs aside when they sense the other person needs a listening ear. In the end with such a conversation there is a climate of safety, mutual respect and acceptance.
  1. A flow of dialogue that includes both point and counterpoint. A good conversationalist is not just a “yes” person but can freely offer contrary opinions without retreating into hostility or hardened personal or political opinions. At the core they have a teachable spirit and are willing to change their point of view as new facts emerge in the conversation.
  1. People who have widely embraced different cultures where they see themselves as perpetual students and can celebrate differences and recognize similarities.

What are some of the conversation killers and enhancers you have had in your experience?



About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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2 Responses to Beyond Blah, Blah, Blah – Towards A Satisfying Conversation

  1. Reblogged this on Voices and commented:
    A great idea to share further- just in line with appreciative inquiry

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