Does an e-mail substitute for a conversation?

This happens to be a major frustration of mine. Rather than a meaningful face to face or over the phone conversation, people launch a cryptic e-mail. And many times this e-mail is not respectful or considerate. I happen to be one of those odd people who will always return an e-mail or a voice mail and only on rare occasions do I flake out. However it has gotten to the point that I actually send people thank you e-mails or voice mails for actually responding to me. What has happened to courtesy in our relationships? Are we really so very busy that others are of no importance? What I of course would far rather see all too often is someone walk down the hall and talk with me directly. Far less misunderstandings etc. And we build relationships and we learn and we build trust and we actually save lots of time.

So here is John’s rule for communication. If it is only data or something that must be documented, or distance or time zones are an issue, then an e-mail will do. If it is at all important or urgent, at the very least launch a voice mail. But if distances or time zones are not an issue, stand up and go talk with the person.

So what are your pet peeves on communication and where does conversation play a role for you? Have great conversations this week.

John

Can a conversation be based on a lie?

In my work I have always focused on building integrity into myself, my relationships, and my communities. I have often gotten into a discussion, note this is not a conversation, about whether you can be in integrity if you are unethical. My position has always been that you can not be integrity based if the actions are unethical. Even if your behavior is inline with your values. This simply does not fit for me. An ethical life is an integrity based life. And so it goes with conversations I believe.

A conversation is an intimate experience, a dance between two or more people generating new knowledge, learning, and understanding. And how can one enjoy that experience if it is based on a lie? I do not believe that is possible. What evolves may be something, but it is not a conversation in my opinion. New knowledge, learning, and understanding seems to be absent from a non-integrity based interaction.

So to have a conversation, one must open up, self disclose, be vulnerable, be honest, and be open to learn and grow. It reminds me of the old adage that you can not love if you do not risk. I believe the same goes for conversation.

Go forth and risk. Join conversations and make a difference.

John

Creating a sustainable conversation

Conversations do have a life time. The life of the conversation generally is influenced by the question that is on the table. The more compelling the question, the longer the life of the conversation. Some conversations seem to last for years because they generate enough passion to keep going. Others can last only minutes. This is always of interest to me as some of the questions that I pose have short life times and I am absolutely certain when I pose them that they will generate an in depth conversation. Other times, a simply question will generate an unexpected conversation.

There is an art to learning how to pose questions that matter. I suspect that with practice and experience one can get better at asking questions that matter. I recently asked a question on a board for an e-learning course that I took. The board was almost void of conversation and I wanted to generate an online community so I posed the question, “What does it take to generate a conversation in an online setting?” and surprisingly this question did generate quite a conversation.

I have been actively participating in online communities for quite a while but still am frustrated with the lack of conversation within those communities. Some are of course better than others. Finding a community where you can share, learn, grow, and make a difference is no easy task and if one finds a community such as this, you are blessed.

I wish you well in your conversations.

Coaching and Conversation

There is much being written about coaching as a management framework. There are steps and models, and what to do and what not to do’s out there. My feeling is that it all boils down to conversation. To coach one needs to be in conversation with another person. Not telling, not demanding, not scolding, not demeaning, but simply respectful and courteous conversation. Let’s not make this to complicated. Management is difficult enough as it is particularly if employee development is viewed as important as it should be.

I have read that 85% of managers are unwilling to discipline as they are uncomfortable with conflict. If they would default to having a conversation with someone, getting to know that persons life, issues, fears, concerns, and struggles, it would be so much easier to reach out a helping hand to assist rather than punish which seems to be the prevailing paradigm.

Learn the simple art of conversation and management will be more effective. People will be treated with respect and courtesy, and the enterprise will be far more effective and efficient in delivering the value to the customers.

Coach on and stay in conversation and have far more fun being a manager and leader.

John

Welcome to Learning Conversations

Welcome to learning conversations. My passion is creating learning in communities. All communities, from small to large. I do this through conversation. Conversation is not discussion, debate, or even dialogue, even though it is closest to dialogue. I use the word conversation deliberately. So I would like to set the stage for this blog and hopefully not return to the dry etymology of the word conversation.

Etymology (where did these words come from or what is the source of their meaning):

discussion – c.1340, from O.Fr. discussion, from L.L. discussionem “examination, discussion,” in classical L., “a shaking,” from discussus, pp. of discutere “strike asunder, break up,” from dis- “apart” + quatere “to shake.” Meaning of “talk over, debate” first recorded 1448. Sense evolution appears to have been from “smash apart” to “scatter, disperse,” then in post-classical times via the mental process involved to “investigate, examine,” then to “debate.”

debate – 14c., from Fr. debattre, orig. “to fight,” from de- “down, completely” + batre “to beat.”
dialogue – 12c., from O.Fr. dialoge, from L. dialogus, from Gk. dialogos, related to dialogesthai “converse,” from dia- “across” + legein “speak.” Mistaken belief that it can only mean “conversation between two persons” is from confusion of dia- and di-.

conversation – 1340, from O.Fr. conversation, from L. conversationem (nom. conversatio) “act of living with,” prp. of conversari “to live with, keep company with,” lit. “turn about with,” from L. com- intens. prefix + vertare, freq. of vertere (see convert). Specific sense of “talk” is 1580. Used as a synonym for “sexual intercourse” from at least 1511, hence criminal conversation, legal term for adultery from late 18c.

converse (adj.) – 1570, from L. conversus “turn around,” pp. of convertere “to turn about” (see convert). Originally mathematical.

Con versare: To Dance Together is a paper that I wrote that captures the foundation of my work in conversation. The one quote that captures this more than anything else is:

Conversation is the natural way we humans think together –Wheatley

Conversation is in essence an experiential feeling based exchange. It is not dry or matter of fact, it is as though you are in an intimate exchange with a friend. When you lose your self while talking with someone else you are in conversation. You are in a dance together. Tools I use include World Cafe, circles, and a myriad of other collaborative and cooperative tools and strategies. All of then drive conversation when they are at their best.

Learing is the outcome of conversation and that is why this blog is a learning conversation blog. I welcome a conversation about this important topic and maybe we all will learn a bit more about how we learn together.

If you would like to explore other links to sites that are learning organization, living systems, organic systems, complex adaptive systems, social systems, and self-organization based, you are welcome to visit my web links and explore. And of course pass on others that I can add to my collection.

So on with the conversation. Welcome to learning conversations.

John