Skilled Conversation Musings….

Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei) posted this question on twitter recently. It intrigued me.

How many really “smart” people do you know that excel at skilled conversation/dialogue too?

First, I had to define ‘smart’ for myself.  I could narrow down my list quickly. I did this by thinking of people whose conversation I was naturally attracted to and who could convey easily what they knew at the right level for me. These are people who generally have completely applied themselves to an area of study, but are also broadly versed in a variety of other topics as well. And generally good listeners.

I had to define what ‘know’ means.  ‘Know’ means I have met the person.  So, that ruled out a lot of smart people I know from online exchanges or have met in passing who may also be really good at skilled conversation/dialogue, but I just haven’t experienced it first hand.

Next, I had to define ‘skilled conversation/dialogue’.  Skilled dialogue and conversation is like a rare art piece. It has listening, vision, content, form, detail, interaction, balance, and appeal. It may have a purpose or desired outcome, as well as humor, long pauses, and emotional content.  The skill part comes when most elements are present and when two people wish to speak WITH another,  not AT  one another.  Each knows the difference. The goal is to mutually listen, bounce ideas around, share content, ask questions, and generally move each other ahead a notch with their current mental models of one or more topics.  It is a well-improvised dance. At the end of the dance, each wishes to applaud the other.

I can only think of one person at the moment who qualifies, though many dozens fall into the smart category.  Many of those I haven’t spent enough time with to have experienced skilled dialogue.  Also, since it takes two to tango, I have much work left to do to improve in this area as well.

How do you define skilled conversation/dialogue?

And do you experience it often?

Explore posts in the same categories: Dialogue, Listening, Personal Growth

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5 Comments on “Skilled Conversation Musings….”

  1. skallott Says:

    Made a comment however it said I could not post it. I will try again shortly.


  2. skallott Says:

    Andrea, we met briefly at AYE a while ago now. I think you and I had good dialogue. I ask people “are you listening or just waiting to speak”, if the latter you’ll not get good conversations.


    • Andrea Chiou Says:

      Thanks for adding your comments!

      Of course I remember you :-). Many AYEers have these skills including you! And of course I am mostly thinking in this short response to Bob about:

      1.) sustained, longer dialogues I have experienced for which generally at conferences there is not the time/space to focus. (AYE much more than others though)
      2.) dialogues that lead to new learning and growth, possibly action.

      I am wondering why I fail to include short discussions and exchanges. I will think about that. It would surely make my count rise quite a bit.

      There’s a book I may invest in called: Dialogue, which may help me understand better what others might use as a definition.


  3. skallott Says:

    I would include personal stories on your list. When people speak from the heart it has more meaning and it is easier to engage with them even if you disagree.


  4. skallott Says:

    I’m not a fan of our sound byte society where everything is condensed into a few seconds. I prefer long ramblings, provided they are on topic, I’d let someone speak for a couple of minutes then take a deep breath and respond in a similar timeframe. It is ok to digress in the pub (bar for US readers) but tangents are not helpful in business conversations. Great topic. Will think and respond more later in the week.


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