What is a conversation?
From the most basic point of view, a conversation is a face-to-face exchange of information, ideas and opinions between two or more people. It has a discrete beginning and end; and the content of the exchange generally focusses on a limited number of topics of interest to the conversing parties.
We find this definition of “conversation” rather limiting and one-dimensional.
For starters, conversations don’t depend on face-to-face contact. They take place through a dizzying variety of channels – telephone, text, social media, email, Internet, chat, Skype, FaceTime… The list is long, and it keeps growing longer!
Conversations span not only space but time!
As we explore and share the Prevention Conversation, keep clearly in mind:
- Meaningful conversations unfold over time. They are not isolated events.
- People use many different channels and technologies to converse. And most have a “preferred mode” for communicating.
The hallmarks of effective conversation
A conversation is reciprocal. It is not a one-way download of information or opinion where one person does all the talking and the other does all the listening. It is a process of sharing through which the participants create shared understandings.
A conversation is satisfying. It leaves the participants feeling heard, values, supported and understood. They also take something valuable from the conversation – an idea, an insight a meaningful piece of information. At its best, a conversation is encouraging, education and inspiring.
A conversation is active. The participants are engaged, animated by a genuine sense of curiosity. All participants ask questions, and they give honest answers.
A conversation is respectful. While one of the voices may be more authoritative, it does not wield power over the other. The participants dispense with jargon and diction that may create a power imbalance or get in the way of clear communication. Empathy pushes out any need to lecture, grandstand or prove a point.