Sometimes a few simple rules can make life (and conversations) so much better. In that spirit, I want to share a few guidelines I learned from the Conversation Cafe model.
What is a Conversation Cafe you ask? They are “open, hosted conversations in cafés as well as conferences and classrooms—anywhere people gather to make sense of our world. At a Conversation Café there is nothing to join, no homework, no agenda, just a simple process that helps to shift us from small talk to BIG talk…conversations that matter.”
I first experienced the power of a Conversation Cafe years ago at an event at St. Edward’s University in Austin. It was facilitated by American writer Margaret (Meg) Wheatley. Her philosophy is: “Sane leadership is the unshakeable faith in people’s capacity to be generous, creative, and kind.” I’ll take a double dose of that! And I’ll write more about that Conversation Cafe experience another day.
For now, let’s get back to the practices that help make Conversation Cafes so refreshing. Here they are with a few edits on my part. As you read them, try to imagine how much more interesting, respectful, and meaningful any conversation — in a group or one-on-one — could become if we all practiced these.
- Open-mindedness – Listen to and respect all points of view in order to benefit from as many ideas as possible.
- Acceptance – Suspend judgment as best you can so everyone can be honest and open.
- Curiosity – Seek to learn, gain new ideas, and understand rather than to persuade. Ask questions to gain clarity or understanding. And listen, listen, listen!
- Discovery – Question your own assumptions, habits, and routines. Look for new insights and ideas.
- Sincerity – Speak from your heart and personal experience. Share both the triumphs and lessons learned.
- Brevity – Go for honesty and depth, but also strive for clarity and brevity so everyone has a chance to contribute.
Go back and read these over again if you feel so moved. Print them out and post them on your bulletin board or keep a copy in your wallet or purse. I can tell you from personal experience that these are foundational steps toward not only better conversations, but true connection.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you. What’s on your mind when it comes to conversation and connection? Where might I be able to help with a quick tip or even a presentation or workshop for your group or organization? Let’s talk! My direct line is 512-970-8129. Or email me at email@example.com