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  • Carolyn Strauss

    It's nice to read everyone's comments, which resonate so strongly with Slow thinking and learning. You'll probably enjoy my post here on GOOD a while back about the SLOW MIND and I hope you'll follow the progress of our Slow Design Knowledge Platform and perhaps even get involved...all in good time :) Thanks, Josh for starting the dialogue!

  • Josh Treuhaft

    Really interesting article about what Nature can teach us about conversations.

    “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
    don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
    doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
    less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
    problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
    person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
    grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive
    effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason
    and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no
    reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you
    understand, and you show that you understand, you can
    love, and the situation will change”

  • Ramsey Ford

    We've had success in generating good design conversations in out fellowship by allowing ample time for reflection before discussion. When we bring fellows together, we often give them some hours to write a reflection on their work and then ask them to share it. Starting a conversation from this point of depth seems to engender thoughful and meaningful discussion.

    • Todd Schechter

      Thanks for sharing this thought Ramsey.

      In the work that we do, we consider and explore processes that can create more thoughtful, meaningful and interactive exchanges. We've experimented with a number of twists on a traditional structured events some quite complicated and some facilitator intensive. Your suggestion seems like the best kind of low-fi opposite.

      I've had powerful moments alone over a pen and pad and creating that moment for others is easy. Not speaking for a while can power conversations to come. It requires valuing those moments enough to put them on a schedule, and a consciousness of their value to remember to use them in the moment (a skill, as Josh points out below).

      I'd love to see how incorporating a 3 minute reflection session into a traditional Q&A might transform the experience. Thanks again!

    • Josh Treuhaft

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Ramsey. That reflective moment is so incredibly powerful. I remember it like it was yesterday. Having the time to sit with your thoughts and let the points that need to come out come out.

      I wonder how we can open the space to allow that to happen more readily? I often feel (and I imagine I'm not alone) that the pace of life is so fast that sometimes it's hard to find those reflective moments. I'm always impressed (and sometimes frustrated) with people who are patient and deliberate enough to take their time to reflect even in the course of a conversation. It's a wonderful skill.

    • Josh Treuhaft

      That's awesome, Monica. Thanks for joining the conversation. And what an amazing resource. I know a lot of thinkers talk about how technology is eroding our social relationships and how as we spend more time in front of the screen we spend less time (and become less adept at) talking to people in the flesh. Interesting to see a tech-enabled tool to help monitor and guide real-word conversation. Also speaks to the points that a lot of people below have raised about listening vs. talking.

      Thanks again for sharing, Monica. That's such a nice find.

      • Todd Schechter

        That app is AMAZING, thanks Monica! I can't wait to try it out.

        Josh, your comment about technology and relationships reminded me about a trending stream on the "return to analogue". JWT did a piece on it recently. A relevant excerpt and a link to read more follow:

        “As we spend more and more time in the digital world, what’s becoming increasingly valued is the time we don’t spend in front of a screen—the time we spend with real people and real things,” says Rose. “It’s not that we’re abandoning digital—far from it. But the more apps, e-books and MP3s we download, the more we seem to seek out physical objects and experiences as well.”

        The question I want to work on is how we bridge more digital power into more powerful analogue experiences (and conversation) while mitigating the distraction potential. We've got a few ideas, looking forward to experimenting.

  • Sara Cornish

    This is a wonderful conversation. Thank you for getting it started Josh. And it's true -- nothing like a deeply-felt, connective, engaging conversation. Relationships are often built on them, creative work emanates from them, and moods and morales of individuals and communities depend on them.

    To echo what Becky said below, listening is critical. It's always frustrating to talk to someone, and realize they're just waiting for their turn to speak (and we're probably all guilty of this sometimes -- especially when discussing something about which we're passionate or knowledgable). Definitely worth tracking yourself in a conversation to make sure you're fully committed, instead of co-opting a two-way conversation into a one-way declaration.

    • Josh Treuhaft

      Well said, Sara. Thanks for sharing. I especially like the part about "moods and morales of individuals and communities depend on them." It's interesting to think what impacts (ripple effects) our conversations can have. Sort of like the saying about a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon and creating a Hurricane in Asia. I bet there are tons of examples of small, seemingly insignificant conversations that have led to massive social movements. I'm not calling them insignificant in any way, but I wonder what the first conversations that led to the Civil Rights Movement looked like?

      • Todd Schechter

        ...and how many of them took place over food and drink... and where? In living rooms, community centers, barber shops, dance halls, park benches, coffee shops, around a campfire?

        One of the most interesting things that I've learned is that sometimes its the indirect elements that can have the most dramatic impact on the nature of conversations. The location, the context, the ambiance, the architecture, furniture design... and the edibles (are there any? are they sharable?)... and the catalysis (caffeine, alcohol).

        All can alter the opportunity for conversation and connection. Which ones have you noticed work well or don't work well for you?

  • Josh Treuhaft

    Just got this message from a good friend of mine:

    "what a great great thing. glad to know ya. Tried to comment on GOOD but it was being finicky--will try again later."

    I thought this was an interesting point to share about digital conversations (no offense to the amazing folks at GOOD): Sometimes unforeseen technological barriers can kill good conversations before they start.

    It's important to think critically about the benefits and limitations of the medium your trying to converse in.

  • Josh Treuhaft

    I'll share a story that speaks to the social dynamics of conversation and the powerful idea of WELCOMING IN.

    The other week I was at a networking event where I knew NO ONE. I'd wandered around from the drink table to the food table, started a couple short conversations with people while waiting in those lines but found myself alone when they headed back to their respective groups. As I meandered around the space, I overheard a small group talking speculatively about laser-cutting - which is something I've actually been doing a lot of recently - so I stopped for a moment. One of the guys in the group (whose name I later found to be Carlos) saw me stop and in a seemingly effortless gesture, welcomed me into the circle without the conversation skipping a beat. It was as simple as turning his body a little to open some physical space in their circle and then saying something welcoming like, "We've just been talking about this cool thing called laser-cutting. Eric over here was telling us he'd seen a youtube vide where a guy turned a cardboard box into a model rhinoceros without even using glue." At the point I was in. The conversation meandered to a bunch of topics and various people came and went, but for the remainder of the evening I had a steady flow of interesting interactions.

    That experience really stuck with me for a couple reasons:

    When I wandered into that conversation, I had only heard the word 'laser-cutting' and didn't really know what they were currently talking about. That little introduction that Carlos gave about the youtube video Eric had seen, gave me context so I could contribute and get on board. It was a small thing that seemed to come totally naturally to him but it made a world of difference for me.

    People standing in a quasi circle, facing inward can make it difficult for outsiders to get involved. That simple physical gesture of turning and opening space in the circle sent a very clear and welcoming message to me that it was okay to join in. I've recognized how powerful that can be in other conversations I've had. Someone was hovering on the periphery and by me simply making eye-contact with them and turning my body in their direction while carrying on the conversation, they immediately felt invited and joined the conversation.

    Can't wait to hear more stories and insights like these.

    Keep 'em coming y'all.

  • Ruchika Muchhala

    Yes, let us talk!! In whatever way - comments, tweets, texts. From being someone who doesn't really enjoy using the phone, I have turned into one of those people who converse over text messages instead of just calling. But the platform of conversation aside, I agree, meaningful conversations need to be designed. I've found that when I keep asking questions to dig and sometimes even tangent, it helps make the other person want to share more and get into the gritty level of understanding instead of linger on the surface level. And agree with Becky - ears wider than mouth, unless you're grinning and nodding along in agreement. ;)

    • Josh Treuhaft

      Thanks for sharing, Ruchika. Out of curiosity, as someone who prefers texts over calling, what are some of the strengths and limitations of texting as a medium for conversation? Do you have any stories of times when you had serious issues in a conversation that took place over text message that may have been better served by talking on the phone?

      • Tanya Bhandari

        I have a point on that. Even though I'm an avid promoted of digital conversations, texting/instant messages most of the times don't convey the tone of the message you're trying to get across (unless you're an emoticon fanatic, but then I just assume your face is stuck like this - :@ ). A lot of subtleties that go in a face-to-face conversation or even a phone conversation are lost when only talking via text. I think Facebook is trying to do something right now with emoticons of EVERY possible emotion though, let's see how that works out.

        • Josh Treuhaft

          I couldn't agree more. I think that was what I was getting at when I asked those questions to Ruchika. There are times when text messages and facebook messages are so perfect. Like when you're running a minute late and want to let someone know. Or when you have a yes / no question that needs a quick answer.

          But there are also times when they're totally inappropriate. like when you have something emotional or difficult to say and the presence and humanity just can't translate through the screen.

          How do he help more people recognize those nuances?

          • Todd Schechter

            I think that this direction of this thread in this conversation touches on a fundamental human desire, the desire to connect and be understood.

            SMS Messaging has many limitations (and advantages). Conversations solve some of these, but words aren't always the best medium to express thoughts either.

            Sometimes movement, art, touch, or silent and present eye-contact can communicate more than any conversation ever could. Will all this in mind and knowing that something like 70% of all communication is non-verbal (including what Josh mentioned his experience at that party - and much more), what does that mean for designing better conversations.

            Interestingly when I went to look up the 70% statistic I ended up here: ...and unearthed another layer which seems relevant: the difference between public and personal space.

            The diagram on that page breaks down pubic space, social space, personal space and intimate spaces... what if many of life's miscommunications were based in a lack of shared norms for how to communicate which space we're in? How could we design around that?

  • Becky Colley

    I pride myself in being a great listener and truly believe that good listening creates good conversation. When I'm engaged in conversation, I try not to interject and I don't spend every moment thinking of my response. Instead, I listen. I slow down. I try to understand.

    A little reminder that my Mom passed along years ago: "always speak with people, not to them."

    The next time you're trying to engage in thoughtful conversation, open your ears wider than your mouth.

    • Josh Treuhaft

      Amazing Becky! Thanks for sharing. Really connects to what Tiffany was saying below, also. Slowing down is a great maxim.

      Though it would seem, both in terms of slowing down and in terms of listening, there is a balance to be struck. If all parties in a conversation have slowed down too much, or if everyone is listening intently and cautious about talking, is it possible that we swing too far in the other direction?

  • Tiffany Gaines

    Great article Josh!

    I look at every conversation as an opportunity for a connection. A connection is the positive exchange of energy from one individual to another. In this context, a connection can be identified as two people ending the conversation with more energy than when it started. No matter how productive, relevant, or intelligent the conversation is thought to have been, measuring the success of it by paying attention to your energy levels is a great way to let go of control of where the conversation "should have gone". Sometimes the best connections are when unexpected conversations take a tangential turn and people get to know each other on a more human level that is less related to the initial objective.

    The other tool I use while conversing is to focus more on "being interested" than "interesting". This strategy helps you stay present and receptive to other people's thoughts. When you genuinely commit to being interested in the other person, you let go of the stress and intellectual clutter caused by searching for relevant thoughts. This is a great tool to use when networking, or collaborating; it practically ensures a connection! You're responses will come naturally when you are fully engaged in the other person, and stop thinking about what you should or could stay.

    Finally, another great tool I use in conversations is "reading the need". Often times, we talk to people in professional settings and have a very clear objective of what we want to get out of our conversation. However, we are all people who have a lot going on emotionally, despite wanting to be productive and polished. Sometimes, the best thing to do before tackling a pragmatic issue through conversation is to "check-in" with the other person. It can be as simple as taking a moment before diving into the talk by looking them straight in the eye and saying. "How are you doing?" If the person is closed off and isn't prepared to talk about their feelings, it's great to make them feel more comfortable by saying something vulnerable about yourself to show them that it's ok. Such as "I've really been struggling with these long hours, I've been feeling quite overwhelmed this week. I'm looking forward to working with you and getting this project done in the most organized, efficient way possible. How has your week been?" Starting your conversation this way can uncover a true need that someone has that may have a huge effect on the direction that your conversation or project should go.

    These are just some tools I keep in mind to ensure that my conversations are as fulfilling, productive, and energizing as possible.



    • Josh Treuhaft

      Thanks for starting the conversation, Tiffany. I really like the point about listening, instead of just waiting to talk. When we think about conversations, it's easy to think about talking and totally neglect the fact that talking has a sibling named 'listening' who is as interesting...or maybe more so. Also, your point about energizing and uplifting is an interesting frame as well. A way of evaluating the personal impact of a conversation. I wonder what that would look like on a more macro scale.

        • Tanya Bhandari

          Josh meet Chatty, he's a superb conversationalist. And he likes to pun.

          • Josh Treuhaft

            A man after my own heart. It's nice to meet you Chatty. Also, I guess Chatty is a superb nickname for someone adept at conversing. Looking forward to hearing more. Thanks for the intro Tanya.

        • Josh Treuhaft

          Thanks for adding your voice, Aniruddha. Welcome to the conversation. Out of curiosity, what compelled you to comment after reading all this? Maybe when it comes to technology enabled discussion platforms, we could learn a thing or two about what motivates people to comment.

          • Aniruddha Chatterjee

            Thanks Tanya & Josh :)
            The main reason why I felt like commenting is because I really liked what Tiffany has said. I myself usually focus on being more 'interesting' in a conversation, but, I sometimes feel that you end up losing a lot while doing so. Trying to be 'interested' is more important and would actually take less effort and be more beneficial.
            And Josh, I thought you might just like to know that your name actually means 'energy / attitude' in Hindi.