Face to face Conversation is far more than just communication. When we have a Conversation, we don’t just exchange information. That’s what computers do. It’s not what people do. People filter, interpret and elaborate on what they hear.
Everyone does this differently. Two people can hear the same thing and take away very different ideas. In fact, we have little idea what others take away from a conversation or what they are thinking.
Conversation is spontaneous and dynamic. It is not planned or scheduled. We don’t plan our response to something that someone says – it emerges spontaneously. The Conversation can be thought of as being in charge. The conversation takes us where it wants to go.
Conversation is shaped by our moods. A conversation held one day will take a very different path and have very different outcomes compared to the same conversation on another day.
Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.
Credit: Theodore Zeldin
The environment in which a conversation is held also has an impact on the actual conversation. Conversation held in a quiet room will take a very different form to one in a noisy cafe or one on the train on a boat or in a car or while walking.
And it’s not just the words spoken that form the communication. The speed and volume of delivery, the tone and the emotion in the voice shape the meaning of the words conveyed. And the eyes and the smile convey so much along with other body language.
We have evolved to be very sensitive to body language and can detect deceit, lies, stress and other underlying emotions. Someone said to me recently “I don’t entirely trust her, she smiles far too much when I talk with her.”
Conversation can inspire and motivate us, or it can depress and turn us off.
In conversation, we make new connections in our minds and our thinking can be triggered down entirely new paths. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that a good conversation can entirely change our lives though such conversations are rare, and we hardly ever recognize the long-term impact of the conversation at the time.
A single conversation or a series of conversations over a period can have a huge impact on us. We start to make different decisions not realizing the influence that earlier conversations have had on us. A conversation held today is heavily influenced by conversations held in the past.
Conversations shape and mold our minds and thus our thinking and the decisions that we make. Conversation shapes our lives.
This page is part of an online book on Conversational Leadership that I am in the process of writing.
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