The Being & The Doing EPISODE 24:
Is the Art of Conversation Dead?
Is the art of conversation dead? These days it seems we debate or argue but we don’t really have conversations any more. Why is that? Maybe the topics are too difficult. Maybe we are too busy to take the time. In this episode we dive into a conversation about conversations – the reasons we are avoiding them and why we need to start talking with each other again.
*A full transcript is at the bottom of the page.
[Blog] How to Have a Bold Conversation
Check out this blog with tips for having that conversation you have been avoiding.
Something to think about:
What is my intent when I am in conversation?
Something to try:
Pick a conversation and have the intention to listen for understanding, not for responding. Be curious about what the other person has to say.
In doing this, what difference does it make to the quality of your conversation?
You can grab your FREE homework Awareness & Action guide HERE
Scroll on down to the comments section and share your thoughts on conversations….
What are the most difficult conversations for you to have?
What makes someone easy to talk with?
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Laurel: Well, hey, lovely ones. Welcome to Episode 24 of The Being and The Doing. So, it’s 2020 and we are taking a slightly different focus to how we’re doing the podcast this year. Greater focus on being in conversation, since I really am feeling like we’re having a challenge being in conversation in the 21st-century. People are not conversing, they’re like, shouting at each other, shouting down at each other but not really being in conversation. And so, I thought it would be a great approach to whatever topics we’re going on this year to be a little more conversational.
And so seemed like the perfect start for this season of being in conversation is to take on the topic of conversation. And I’m happy to have the producer of our show here to be in conversation with me about this particular topic. So welcome, Neela.
Neela: Hi. Happy to be back.
Laurel: So, conversation. There used to be a time when people could sit down and have differing opinions on topics and they would be able to share those different opinions without like hacking each other apart in conversation. And I think the other part, there’s that part about what’s happening with conversation but I think there’s also the other part where everyone is so darn busy that nobody has time for conversation.
So, yeah, let’s get together for coffee and oh, we will but then we don’t really because we’re just too busy. And so the opportunity to just sit and be in conversation maybe feels too luxurious, I don’t know if that’s the right word. I just don’t have time for conversation anymore.
Neela: Well, I think too, sometimes there’s a lot of pressure for us to have opinions about everything.
Laurel: I have opinions.
Neela: There are so many places where I can share my opinion about things; liking it, writing, comments, blah, blah, blah. But, sometimes I think maybe it’s okay if I just don’t have an opinion about something and actually just sit and listen and just sort of maybe be reflective.
But I feel like sometimes you open up whether it’s you know, the demon Facebook or whatever and you go in there you’re just, you just always have to respond, respond, respond; like, comment, you know. But I think this idea of old fashioned listening and the back and forth kind of an idea sometimes I think it’s lost.
Laurel: Yeah, I do think it gets lost and it’s interesting because I respectfully want to disagree with you because I don’t think anybody responds on social media. I think everyone reacts to social media. Because ‘respond’ means I need to take a moment like I have enough space between the thing that happened and how it is that I respond that there’s actually a gap in there.
You know, I think it was great, Viktor Frankl who said, you know, between stimulus and response, there’s a space that, where you can actually take a moment in order to be intentional and conscious about how it is that respond. But I don’t think we respond, I think you’re right.
You click the button to like it or whatever particular emoji that you’re attaching with that or, you know, vomiting some comment without having just maybe I’ll read that now I’ll process that then I’ll come back and have some sort of thoughtful response. It’s more just a reaction, I think, particularly on social media.
Neela: And I think too, we’re interacting with more people than we used to. Like, for example, I think back in the day when you think of like who used to be in your circle. You know like, as a child, you have the people that your parents going to allow you to have in your circle. Or the people that expands to your school and then it expands, you know, as adults, it’s maybe your workplace or whatever.
But now, I mean, just think of the number of people that you are, I don’t want to say in conversation with because you’re right, I’m not an actual conversation with, I’m in contact with them and their ideas. And then, how far removed are they from me and does that change the kind of quality the conversation I have with them?
Like I’m obviously, I have a different, intimate conversation with you, Laurel, because I’ve known you for 20 years. But what kind of conversation am I having with just this person on Facebook that posted a thing? Do you know what I mean? So I think there are so many levels of conversation now for us to navigate. It’s actually not surprising we’re so bad at most of it.
Laurel: Yeah. And when if we take it off of social media for a minute and we think about those circles of people who actually know you, not people who know you in the social media world but people who know you, your family, your friends, your coworkers, I think we actually are avoiding conversation now because there’s such a risk. I’ll use the word risk that it’s going to be contentious because I might not necessarily agree with you on like, on whatever it is. Like you know politics, fine but TV programs or movies or whatever it is, sports teams, doesn’t matter.
There’s such a risk that if I start to talk about what I think or feel about this particular topic and someone is not going to agree with me that we’ve forgotten how to have a conversation about that. And so I’m just not really going to necessarily share my opinion because I just don’t want to go there in the workplace or I don’t want to go there around the table at Thanksgiving. So I’m just not going to and then I stopped practicing the art of conversation because I’m withholding it.
Neela: Right. And I think another thing that I think is maybe a negative of social media. I mean, I think it actually has a lot of pluses but one of the negatives is that I can just unfriend you if you say stuff I don’t like. In fact, somebody said that to me the other day. They said I don’t, can’t remember how they phrase it, essentially I booted someone out of my friend list or whatever because they kept posting stuff that I disagreed with. I’m paraphrasing him. But you know, whether it was a political thing or whether it was an environmental thing or whatever.
This person was saying stuff and they didn’t like what they were saying and so, they just booted them off their list and of course, they have the right to do that. And I’m assuming this person was not being abusive in any way. But just that whole idea of ‘thought bubble’ I find really interesting when it comes to conversations.
And maybe that’s another reason why our ability to have stressful conversations has gotten a bit weak because we don’t have to have them. We can just boot people out of our social media world or our social world when they’re not in our reinforcing bubble.
Laurel: Right. Or coming back out of social media again, I’m sure we don’t boot the actual people standing in front of us but we just lowered the bar on our ability to be able to have a conversation about things. So it’s in essence, we’ve booted them because the range of topics that are okay to maybe have a conversation about are so much narrower.
Because it seems like the idea of the diversity of ideas and opinions is no longer valued in perhaps the way it was before. That we want everyone to think the way we think and if you don’t think the way that I think well, okay, there must be something that’s wrong with you and my job in “conversation” is to convince you that you should be thinking the way I’m thinking or maybe there’s something wrong with you.
Neela: Right, exactly. It’s not a conversation, it’s actually you have an agenda.
Laurel: You have an agenda, yes, you have an agenda. That conversation isn’t about I want to learn more about what you think about that or I want to learn more about, well, why would you think that? Because maybe what you think I’m thinking, well, that’s nuts. Why do you think that Neela?
But what is the point of conversation, is not the point of conversation to get to know the other person better or get to know another perspective in a different way? Like, okay, maybe I’m being old fashioned, I think that’s kind of the point of conversation, isn’t it for us to get to know and understand each other better. But maybe it’s not.
Neela: Laurel, I think too, coming at it from a different angle here, not just about having conversations with people we disagree with but how about being real with people who are our friends and very close loved ones? Are we doing in the sort of Rene Brown tradition of being brave and vulnerable with people even in our world? And is that sometimes where conversations fall down?
Because I’m only really willing to show you, you know, a certain amount of who I am and then after that, I’m uncomfortable. And so that might be an interesting bit of work for us personally to do is to sort of go, hmm, that’s interesting. If I’m not really feeling like I’m connected to that person; is some of that about me and my ability to be vulnerable or to be authentic? Or you know those kind of things, which sounds really easy but actually, they’re kind of harder to do than to think.
Laurel: Yeah. I want to be authentic, but only to the point where I think that you’re going to like who I am authentically. Because if you know what and I hear this from clients, here’s my fear about being real or bringing my real self to work or with my family or whatever, if I actually bring who I am, well, they might not like who I am. And then where does that leave me if I brought who I really am into the conversation and they don’t like me, does that mean there’s something wrong with me?
Laurel: So the fear of being judged and if we spin back to the social media thing, social media is all about judging, right?
Neela: Right and curating, we’re not really being us, though. You don’t go on my Facebook page and see me looking, you know, no makeup, trying to open my eyes in the morning. You know you see the curated thing that I’m proud of that I want to get likes on.
I mean, obviously, I have to be really honest, I’m not a big Facebook user. But, that’s a thing, especially with our teens and those kind of, maybe more vulnerable and more just emerging selves. We have people who have the enormous pressure to have a curated self that is likable and that is acceptable and that sort of thing.
Laurel: Well, particularly on social media where everyone feels it’s within their sphere of, it’s part of their job on social media to comment on things that really have nothing to do with them. You know, when we look at parent shaming. Like, someone has posted something, who am I to be able to go on and comment and say, well, that’s a horrible thing that you’re doing?
I don’t know this person from a hole in the wall, how do I know whether that’s a good thing or not? It may be a thing that I wouldn’t particularly do but I think the fact that it’s such a judgmental place, that we now have begun to monitor and limit the way in which we’re in a conversation.
And I agree with you, there’s not really any conversation that happens on social media, it’s a broadcast format, right? But if we leave social media for a moment and then come back to how it is that we interact with real people that we encounter, I think the influence of social media is huge. Because we’ve learned what happens there and how people behave on social media is now how they’re beginning to behave person to person where it’s very difficult to be able to have a real and genuine conversation about anything because we’re always trying to convince the other person.
And I’ll come back to my idea of conversation is that I begin to better understand you where you’re coming from so I now know you better. And in doing, I also get to clarify what I think like, you probably had that experience. Where I was thinking this and then you’re in a really good conversation and it’s like, okay, I either understand my position better or, oh, wait, now maybe I think differently about it.
That all flowed out of being in conversation. I think we’ve somehow forgotten or stopped doing that for all of those reasons. And you know, conversation is just a set of skills. If you don’t use it, you don’t get any better at it and you probably lose your edge at being in conversation.
Neela: I’ll tell you something. I’ve been very aware of and I think part of this is because as the producer of your show, I have a lot of experience with your content, which has really been helpful. It has, jokes aside, actually a lot of stuff has just really shifted my thinking a lot.
And what I think is interesting about conversation based on some of the work you have done and even in previous podcast and in previous seasons, is the idea of how does distractedness and being present, those two sides of the coin, I guess, how do they play into conversation, the ability to have a conversation?
And I’ll tell you where it shows up for me most of all is people on their cell phones and that there’s been this profound shift in just the culture of having a conversation. You go to a restaurant, you go to a coffee shop and someone is talking and someone is on their cell phone “multi multitasking” and I’m using air quotes here. And so I think the idea of the idea of distractedness, I think bleeds into the ability to have a conversation.
Laurel: Yeah, exactly because to really have a conversation you have to be present. If I’m going to actually have a conversation, I have to be paying attention to you and what it is that you have to say. And I have to be thoughtful about what it is that I am going to say.
So yes, if my brain is somewhere else and I’m busy focused on other things, it’s very hard for me to be actually present to what it is that you’re saying. Then layer onto that, that my motivation for being in the conversation is maybe not to get to know you and understand you better. But my motivation is to convince you or bully you into a different way of thinking.
So if I’m going to be there in conversation with you, now I’m distracted but when I’m not distracted by my motivation is not what would seem to me to be a particularly good motivation for being in conversation in the first place. Because I have to listen to understand, not just listen to respond to what it is that you’re saying.
Laurel: Right. Because most of the time, when we’re listening, we’re not listening so that I can really understand where is it that you’re coming from on that particular topic. But I’m listening for you, you know, have to inhale so now there’s a break and I can jump in, okay, now here’s what I have to say or I’m listening for an attempt to rebut what it is that you’re going to say.
I’m not really listening to understand it, I’m listening for okay, when you say that, then I can say this. Or I’m not really listening at all, because if it’s with the people closest to us, we have this tendency of okay, I’ve heard this before. And so I don’t really, I don’t know, I really have already okay, mother, sister, friend, partner, kid whatever I have heard that before.
So I’m going to actually tune out until there’s either something new that I can respond to or something that I can rebut and I’m not actually paying attention at all in conversation. Because when we think about conversation, you know, it’s I’m going to communicate something that’s part of my job is to be able to communicate to you effectively this; thing, thought, opinion, feeling.
And it’s not just that you now receive that; I want you to receive that your job is to receive it but my job is also to ensure that you’ve been receiving accurately what it is that I am sending. So I’m saying something, you’re going to receive it; now, did you actually receive the message that I send? And it this; go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.
But I think it’s a lot of one way, I say this then you say that, then I say this then you say that. ‘A share-a-ton’, maybe. And I think either we don’t have the motivation because maybe we’re afraid of being judged for what it is that we have to say. Or we don’t feel like we have the time because I am too busy.
Or it’s like, oh, man, that just takes too much effort. It takes effort to be in conversation because I do have to be present. I have to monitor the fact that my thoughts are off somewhere else. Well, you’re doing Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice or mother’s voice. Oh, wait, now I can talk again.
Neela: So where does the wise one?
Laurel: Not so much. So where do we go? Yeah, well, partly where I think we want to go this year with the podcast is about being in conversation. So having an opportunity where, you know, sometimes you’re here and we get to bat around some ideas.
And for you, listener, like you’re in this sort of interesting, you know, you’re the kind of the third party in our conversation lurking over there in your car or your easy chair, wherever you are in your listening. And what I really want to do is invite you into the conversation so that you don’t have to just be the listener, the lurker over there and there are ways for you to do that.
In the show notes, there’s an opportunity for you to share what you have to say or think about this particular topic and I’m going to start the conversation. So when you go to the show notes and you see the comment section, I’m going to start the conversation and I really invite you into it.
And let’s have an open, respectful, interesting conversation that’s my only thing. I just want everyone to be respectful of being able to have a conversation where we might not necessarily all agree and maybe we’re trying to listen for understanding in that conversation rather than just for debate. So that’s cool.
The other thing is if you’re new to the podcast, one of the things I’d like to leave you with is something to think about and something to do, which goes back to the whole idea of The Being and the Doing, right. The ‘being’ part of ourselves is, the pausing, reflective, awareness piece and how do we do that? We do that by having something to focus our reflection on.
So having something to think about, a question to ponder whether you journal on it, great or if not a journal or maybe you’re just sitting with your cup of tea thinking about it or you take it for a walk or whatever it is you want to do but it’s something to think about.
And the ‘doing’ part is something to try because it’s not just enough to think about things or have awareness, we actually have to do something with that awareness. And it’s not enough to just sort of do things without them closing the loop back around to something to think about.
So, for on this topic of conversation here is something to think about. Your reflection question is, what is my intent when I’m in conversation? And I mean, that’s kind of a global question that you can reflect on. Like, what intent do I have? What is my motivation for being in conversation or maybe even thinking about it with specific people in your life? Is your intent with your partner in conversation only about scheduling, right? Or is it actually about understanding and getting to know this person in a deeper way?
Especially if you’ve been with your partner for a long time, like sometimes we think, oh yeah, I know everything about this person. Well, you know what, no, you don’t because people change and grow and what they might have thought about something one time is something completely different what they think now.
So just taking that question of what’s my intent when I’m in conversation, something to think about and then something to try. Now, this is for the brave and bold of you. Pick a conversation and have as your intent in that conversation to listen for understanding rather than just trying to make your point or to debate.
But that you bring that hard focus on trying to understand where the person is coming from, which means you’re going to ask questions differently. Because your questions are designed to be curious about what that other person is thinking about. And when you’re on the show notes, there’s a place where you can download, no opt-in needed or anything.
Just download a little sheet, that can help you sort of capture your ideas and your reflections and thoughts about when you try something to think about and something to try. And when you’re on the show notes, be sure to join the conversation because I really want to hear your voice on the topic of conversations.
Neela: Okay, and maybe I’ll just mention something that might be new to your listeners, which is we’ve added a Patreon. It’ll be a button or a link or something on you know, you may be getting this in different formats. Maybe listening to this podcast in different formats.
But I thought Patreon might be something new to your listeners and Patreon is just another way of having another opportunity for listeners to help support the podcast. And we’ve had quite a few people and I say we, as I work behind the scenes on some of the technical stuff.
So people have said how can I support the podcast and we haven’t really had a way for people to really have an easy way for people to do that. So we’ve added a new thing, which is called Patreon. And Patreon is a way that, it’s a really easy way that if you’d like to support the podcast you can, you know, for the sort of the price of a cup of coffee you can just support Laurel’s podcast and it keeps the podcast ad-free, keep the lights on that kind of have an idea.
But you can check that out in the show notes. We’ll have a link to that and I think that’s it for the new stuff, at least that we were going to talk about today. Back to you, Laurel.
Laurel: Yeah, and actually, in terms of ways in which you can support the show, please, please be in conversation and tell someone you know what I really love The Being and the Doing podcast. So if you can share on social media or however you communicate to people who are important to you.
If you can share about the podcast, point people to it, that is, really helpful to us. And of course, you know, you can find the podcast and subscribe to it in whatever way that you receive your podcasts.
So, lovely ones. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for listening. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation with you in the show notes. Until next time, be kind to each other and pause and breathe and enjoy your day.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and the Doing with your host Laurel Vespi. If you like this podcast, stop whatever you’re doing, unless you’re driving and hit subscribe. Leave a review, then share this episode with a friend. Thanks for your support.