What do we mean by a “good” conversation?

Good conversations are both an art and a science

The art parts are based on experience and awareness.

The science parts are based on learnable tools and frameworks.

Bringing them together can help enable transformative change.

Good conversations actually get somewhere

In the case of our Courageous Conversations,somewhere’ means a conversation arrives at a “post-doom” conclusion.

Good conversations are purposeful, meaningful & productive

  • Purposeful is about staying on track — towards re/generative, post-doom outcomes.
  • Meaningful is about people hearing and being heard — towards new thinking and deep insights.
  • Productive is about articulating robust outcomes — towards action and commitment.

Good conversations cover the “5 Whats”

That is:

  1. What is the precise topic that people choose to discuss together? What is the conversation really about?  In our case, all the topics relate to the reality of climate collapse.
  2. What information do those people have about that topic? This is the realm of data, not opinion.  It can be expanded by the host, if required.  It provides a factual foundation to discussions and decisions made.
  3. What visceral response/s occur in relation to the topic and the data? This is the realm of emotions, gut reactions, connections and/or associations.  It gives energy and power to decisions and action.
  4. What does this mean for us? This is the realm of analysis and reason.  What is important, significant or has priority?  It gives focus and clarity to decisions and action.
  5. And Now What? This is the realm of commitment and resolution.  What will I and/or we resolve or commit to do? Individually? Collectively?

Good conversations can be done intentionally

That is, they can be intentionally designed to point to something beyond the conversation itself. This requires both good conversation management from the organiser and unlocking and aligning positive intent from the participants.

Conversation Management

Good conversation management can be well guided by a four-fold project management cycle:

  • Discover. What topic is worth having a conversation about? For the people involved?  For the planet?  For the future?  What outcomes will make a difference?
  • Design. What is the journey that people will take together?  What process structure and flow will enable that journey?
  • Deliver. Run the process, responding to the group in real time, with an open heart/ mind/ will.
  • Debrief. Review and reflect on the three previous phases.  Note and integrate lessons learned.

Courageous Conversations are hard.  Using these steps helps you do your best work in the midst of the turbulence.

Participants’ Intent

It really does matter how much passion and direction participants can be encouraged to bring to a conversation.  If they don’t care, or their heads are somewhere else, or they have adamantly closed off their minds — then that conversation is not really for them.  No amount of good ‘conversation management’ is going to shift their stance, unlock their potentials, and enable them to arrive at the same outcomes as the rest of the group.

Conversely, positive intent really helps people work through tough dialogue.

So: how do you have a good, courageous conversation?

In Summary

  1. Engage people in a meaningful, regenerative topic that fits the context.
  2. Create conditions to enable participants to deeply hear and be deeply heard.
  3. Be intentional about how you set up, frame and run the conversation.
  4. Help people connect their outer knowledge and inner experience with the journey and the outcomes.

Simple!  🙂🙂

“Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.”

Margaret Wheatley

Now, go out and have some courageous conversations!

  The 5 Whats is a variation of the Technology of Participation™ Underlying Dynamics of Facilitation.  These Dynamics are often used via the ToP™ Focussed Conversation Method, or the ToP™ Consensus Workshop Method.

David Jago, for And Now What