23 December 2010

On Conversation

I was recently with a friend who left me dismayed. He's become the guy whose opinions are not opinions but are, instead, "the way things are." This dismayed me because such an approach takes all the joy out of every conversation and because it was a reminder of how easily I could become (could be?) that guy. I have very strong opinions.

But it seems to me that the best conversations are the ones that don't smack down possibility before it's even out of the womb. Instead, conversations that play with possibility, coddle it, and explore it are best. This means that a person can talk without being defensive. (I do think that there is something expansive about good conversations. They don't make us hunker down but instead draw us out to dance.) This means that a person gets to discover for himself or herself what is or is not workable in this possibility. And finally, in the end, it clarifies the real purpose of a conversation. Conversation is not about the battle of ideas or an exchange of information: conversation is about, not just getting to uncover ourselves but getting to discover ourselves. A good conversation leaves you vulnerable at times. It is as much about confessing what you don't know as what you do. It is not about alternating monologues but instead about co-creating a dialogue. This means cooperation, not competition.

Next time you are in a conversation, try the following. When someone mentions something that you disagree with, play with it. Listen to them. Ask them questions that get them to explore the consequences of what they're saying, rather than having you point this out. Not only do they get to understand themselves better, but you, too, might come to understand them. And if there is anything that we all want, it is to be heard and understood.

Finally, I'll try not to be the guy who "knows." My own conclusion about life is that it is easiest to be arrogant when you've not really tried anything. If you are sincere about trying to accomplish something that matters, you'll inevitably be humbled by life ... and if you are honest about it, this will leave you open to hear what someone else might know that could be a help to you becoming who it is that you're becoming.


nunya said...

There is a difference between someone who converses with others and someone who doesn't. You don't strike me as someone who doesn't. Happy New Year :)

Ron Davison said...

Thank you Nunya! It's nice of you to say that but I know for a fact that I've been that guy. The only question is how often I'm that guy, not whether I am.
Happy New Year to you as well!