Designing Meaningful Conversations

Conversation between two people seems to be the easiest way to share information, but good conversations take a little more effort than you might be accustomed to in order to get results.

Meaningful conversation involves deeply reflective listening, suspending assumptions, and building shared meaning through an exchange, as opposed to an argument. Meaningful conversation also involves speaking when you feel moved to participate, rather than being required to speak as part of a social norm or an expectation.

Conversation does not include discussion, debate, persuasion, convincing, or tactics to try to change someone’s opinion.

In organizations today, we often refer to terms like key messages and wordsmithing. We often communicate through Power Point presentations, e-mail, and text messaging. However, a conversation brings us back to the practice of sharing, thinking, and creativity by communicating stories and connecting ideas together.

If you’ve heard of dialogue tools like these, they exist to help people to communicate better:

  • Meeting audits
  • Facilitated conference calls
  • Storytelling for corporate leaders
  • Accountability agreements
  • Interest-based negotiations

When we create opportunities for particular kinds of communication to take place, we have an opportunity to design conversations that lead to shared meaning, deeply respectful dialogue, and effective listening.