Photo by Jason Schuklt

Conversation is on the decline these days. We have become a culture of Tweeters, texters, and emailers, but, unfortunately, technological communication does not give us the feeling of connection that conversation provides.

Happiness is directly related to our social ties and relationships—friends, family, and community—and a feeling of safety and security because we know we’re loved, cared for, valued, and won’t be abandoned.

We build community through conversation. Conversing with others also increases health, happiness, and longevity.

Engaging in authentic conversation takes time, focus, and dedication to building listening and responding skills. We must learn to ask questions that are appropriately timed, respectful, insightful, and probe below the level of superficiality. For instance, “How have you been?” will probably elicit a response of “Not too bad.” But if you ask someone what the best part of their week has been, they will probably answer quite differently.

Learn to listen as much as you speak. Monitor your conversations to be sure that you give the person you’re talking to equal time and attention while you’re talking. And remember, being right isn’t as important as a respectful exchange of viewpoints. The purpose of conversation is connection, not scoring a win. Express your opinion or point of view, but don’t press your position.

  • Don’t argue. It’s not worth what you lose in the relationship.
  • Don’t complain.
  • Give supportive feedback.

Use responsive facial expressions and body language.

  • Smile and laugh.
  • Nod your head in agreement.
  • Lean forward.
  • Laugh quietly.

Authentic conversations

  • Allow us to maneuver through difficult issues and arrive at new places in our understanding: innovative ideas, a creative way of working.  The ability to have robust conversations that cut through big issues to arrive at something new: an innovative idea, a novel way of working or a creative experiment.  Setting an inclusive, authentic and welcoming tone is important, right from the start.
  • Energize people. When individuals feel ‘seen’ and listened to, they are much more willing to give their best.
  • Align action. When team members talk about what matters most, people pull in the same direction.
  • Promote peace and better decision-making. When all voices are valued and respected, the best decision for everyone comes clearly into view.
  • Increase opportunity for self-awareness  and reflection.  By listening and having authentic mutually respectful conversation with others allow us to see our selves in a new ways.
  • Open our minds and illuminate new opportunities. When we take the time to listen to others, we open our thoughts to perspectives and insights we may never have considered before. Authentic conversation spurs reflection and forces us to think about life in new ways that illuminate our ability to relate to others.
  • Share collective wisdom. Conversation allows me to express the unique wisdom I have derived from life and draw that wisdom from others. These experiences allow us to grow and flourish beyond our individual abilities.


Bill Isaacs summarizes it this way: “Dialogue is a way of taking the energy of our differences and channeling it toward something that has never been created before. It lifts us out of polarization in into a greater common sense, and is thereby a means for accessing the intelligence and correlated power of groups of people.” (p. 19, AQZ Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together).

How can applying these principles transform relationships? Corporate cultures? Diverse communities? Experience has taught me that authentic conversation is the foundation for understanding, personal transformation, and inter-relational growth.

What about you? How has applying these principles positively influenced your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Peace & Health,

Dr. Clem