On the importance of our conversations
Greetings from Tehran,
When I think about topics I want to cover in my writings, considering “conversations” will be a constant theme. Our conversations can transform the results we get. Conversations are the heart of any change whether generative or degenerative. As we go through a change process, engage with people to invite them to walk along together to create the desired future, conversations become the means to make changes happen. We discovers meanings, connect to people, and tell our stories through the conversations with other people.
We have our words and we construct our world with words. By focusing on this topic, I'm going to explore the land of language and conversation to help gain awareness of how every day we construct reality.
The need for conversations
At the beginning of “letter to you”, the documentary on Bruce Springsteen latest album, you hear a monologue from Bruce:
I'm in the middle of a 45-year conversation with these men and women I'm surrounded by and with some of you. Now, some of you, I suppose, we're only recently started speaking. But either way, I've tried to make that conversation essential, fun, and entertaining.
I started playing guitar because I was looking for someone to speak to and correspond with. I guess that worked out better than my wildest dreams.
All I know is after all this time, I still feel the burning need to communicate. It's there when I wake every morning. It walks alongside me throughout the day. And it's there when I go to sleep each night. Over the past 50 years, it's never once ceased. Owing to what, I don't really know. Is it loneliness, hunger, ego, ambition, desire, a need to be felt and heard, recognized, all the above?
All I know is that it's one of the most consistent impulses in my life. As reliable as the rhythmic beating of my own heart is my need to talk to you.
Each of us has our language as a means for connecting and exploring. As we walk the journey of life, our expressions emerge in different forms. As Bruce Springsteen mentioned, his guitar, poems, and melodies, together, complete what he wants to express. A painter, a poem, an architect, and… find their whole expression form in what they create. Take a deeper look at your daily communications, as you live every moment, you may realize that your language and your inner words at the moment of expression become a whole-body experience. At the heart of all creativity, joy, and sadness, feeling connected or lonely is the need for a conversation about something meaningful. It’s about successful or broken conversations.
When I think about language, conversations, and understanding, I constantly remember the Tower of Babel myth.
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
— Genesis 11:1–9
According to the narrative:
A united human race in the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating eastward, comes to the land of Shinar (שִׁנְעָר). There they agree to build a city and a tower tall enough to reach heaven. God, observing their city and tower, confounds their speech so that they can no longer understand each other, and scatters them around the world.
The narrative tells us the suffering of the human race begins from not understanding each other. Imagine if you wake up in the morning, you look at the eyes of your loved ones, you need to express the feelings, sounds come out of your mouth. The other one looks at you and does not understand what you tell. How do you feel?
As a practitioner in life or work, with whatever profession we have, language awareness is the foundation to change at any level. With our language, we can shape reality, construct or destroy.
In Farsi, there are three word points to act of sitting. One is polite and formal. The second is informal and friendly, and the third is aggressive. If you have someone by your side and want to tell her/him to sit, you can choose one of these words. Whatever you choose, it constructs reality and reactions. As you use that word, the story will follow your choice.
Meaning of Conversation
At the beginning of 2021, I had to design a workshop for 30 Managers of a software company in the financial sector to improve collaboration through conversations. I was curious about the meaning and root of the phrase “Conversation”. Sometimes this is the kind of game I play. Finding the root of phrases and words tells you lots of stories. The word conversation comes from old French word with the same spelling;
mid-14c., "place where one lives or dwells," also "general course of actions or habits, manner of conducting oneself in the world," both senses now obsolete; from Old French conversacion "behavior, life, way of life, monastic life," and directly from Latin conversationem (nominative conversatio) "frequent use, frequent abode in a place, intercourse, conversation," noun of action from past-participle stem of conversari "to live, dwell, live with, keep company with," passive voice of conversare "to turn about, turn about with," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see
) + versare, frequentative of vertere "to turn" (from PIE root
(2) "to turn, bend").
Look at the french meaning: behavior, Life, way of life, monastic life, I realize that conversation for human beings is like a spiritual journey. It seems that I find myself, I create meanings, express and define my identity with my conversations. There are important questions we can ask ourselves:
If conversations are the manner of conducting oneself in the world, then how do my conversations define me? What kind of conversations do I constantly have, which shape my world? What kind of metaphors do I usually use to define the story of my life or the world I’m in? Are my conversations generative? Does it generate new ideas and satisfaction? Does it help me and others to find hope? Even, what are the words I usually use to describe moments? How do my words define me?
If I have a recording of all my conversations in a year what do I hear? What kind of reality did I create?
The conversation is a meeting of hearts and minds. I believe this: When hearts and minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts and create atmospheres of hope or despair: They transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new explorations of possibility. Such conversations are literally living systems, living on the edge of chaos and order—like all of life, when it is most alive, busting out all over with pattern and coherence, but also alive with novelty and emergence.
- David Cooperider
Some books around this topic are with the assumption that conversations are tough. Maybe it’s true. Maybe not! One of the books that invite the reader to examine meaningful conversations is “Conversations Worth Having” by Jacqueline M. Stavros and Cheri Torres.
About the Book
Conversations can be critical and destructive, or they can be generative and productive. This book shows how to guarantee your conversations will help people, organizations, and communities flourish.
Conversations are at the core of how we interact. We all know that conversations influence us, but we rarely stop to think about how much impact they have on our well-being and our ability to thrive. This book shows how Appreciative Inquiry (AI)--one of the most widely used new approaches for fostering positive change for individuals, groups, organizations, and communities--can help everyone communicate better and flourish in all areas of their lives. Stavros and Torres spell out 2 practices and 5 principles to create great conversations. Each chapter is built around real-life stories of people using these practices and principles to strengthen relationships and generate possibilities for a future that works for everyone.
Another book is On Dialogue by David Bohm. About the book:
Never before has there been a greater need for deeper listening and more open communication to cope with the complex problems facing our organizations, businesses, and societies. Renowned scientist David Bohm believed there was a better way for humanity to discover meaning and to achieve harmony. He identified creative dialogue, a sharing of assumptions and understanding, as a means by which the individual, and society as a whole, can learn more about themselves and others, and achieve a renewed sense of purpose.
You can also find a good article about Bohm view on dialogue at Brain Picking here. brainpickings.org/2016/12/05/david-bohm-on-dialogue/
Do you have any other recommendations? Leave me a comment.
Babel - 2006
A Psychological drama directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu presents miscommunication, globalization, and connectivity of human beings.
12 Angry Men - 1957
The famous classic directed by Sidney Lumet tells the story of 12 jury men debate on the conviction or acquittal of an 18-years old defendant.
Carnage - 2011
A black comedy directed by Roman Polanski. The movie is about 2 couples who meet in a Brooklyn apartment to discuss the matter of a fight between their children. The story is full of ups and downs and you see how conversations can have a powerful effect on creating realities.
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