In Search of Real Conversations

I remember someone once remarked about a colleague, “He’s a great conversationalist.” And it was true, he always had the longest talks with people and came away knowing more about them than anyone else.

My curiosity is aroused about conversations, and has been ever since I picked up the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. I’ve begun listening intensely to myself and to the conversations I’m having with both clients and relationships in my life.

It’s a little like discovering a hammer for the first time: everything starts looking like a nail after a while. When you study conversations, you start listening to them everywhere. You listen to the conversations people have in stores, over the phone, in interviews on TV and the Web, and even to the conversations you have with yourself.

You probably don’t have those conversations, but some of us do.

What I’m picking up on is how often people change topics, avoid issues, hem and haw, make excuses, blame others, and are imprecise and vague with their language.  Many conversations seem to go nowhere and say nothing.

In business, the worst offenders are the jargon tossers. Some people throw out buzz words to save themselves the effort of real expression. What does that mean? I’ve fallen into the jargon trap myself.

A friend of mine is prone to back tracking during a conversation. He’ll stop in midsentence and say, “No, that’s not it, that’s not what I truly want to say. Let me see if I can get closer to what I want to express.”

You can bet people really listen to what’s coming next. I don’t think having meaningful conversations is as easy as most people assume them to be.

In Fierce Conversations, author Susan Scott says, “The simplest definition of a fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves, into the conversation, and make it real. While most people are uncomfortable with real, it is the unreal conversations that should scare us to death. Why? Because they are incredibly expensive, for organizations and for individuals.”

Conversations may be easy to have, making them real and meaningful is another story. What do you think?

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