Is D & M making a comeback over DM?


July 18th, 2010

Is all this micro-blogging, direct messaging, status updating and skimming the web making us crave something else? Do we want to have deeper, longer and more meaningful conversations? Sarah Wilson writes about this in her latest column/blog. Here’s a few snippets:

Everyone I know is glued to TED.com…And when they’re not they’re going to “in conversation evenings”  on a Tuesday at their local pub. Indeed, thinkers have become sexy.

You can’t go deep on the fly or with 2010-style distractions. And deep needn’t be dark and morose. The point is to penetrate, to peel off layers. To keep asking why, and then why again. And to develop your own opinions. Talking deeply extends you. It sees you reaching other people in ways you might not with a casual chat. [And] you’re careful and mindful of what you say and give, which creates intimacy.

A deep and meaningful conversation provides something else as well. It’s satisfying. Many of my friends who still work in organisations and go to an office at least a few days a week, seem to spend a lot of time in meetings. I don’t think a meeting is a place for a deep and meaningful conversation. And often one meeting runs into another, lunch is eaten on the fly. So when are there times for any sort of conversation, let alone deep and meaningful?

Sometimes when facilitating a workshop I deliberately slow down the pace. Some people might ask how long they have to discuss such-and-such a topic. The answer is irrelevant. We don’t have conversations by the clock. There is, rather, some internal and natural cadence to conversations, an ebb and flow, a slowing down, stopping, reflecting and restarting that is difficult to notice in a 10-minute conversation. Or in one that is continually interrupted.

Some people hate this. They check the time. Glance up to see if I’m about to move on. Get fidgetty and disgruntled. I think this happens because sometimes we forget how to pay attention to others. I can draw on my own experiences here. When I’m anxious to get out of a conversation, it’s because I’m not sure where it’s heading and I’m not prepered to invest in either the time or myself or the others to make the most of it. And, hey, it may go no-where. There are no guarantees. Yet often it is surprising where focus, attention, generosity and perseverence will lead. I think that’s true of conversations. I think it’s true of workshops.

And let’s be clear, not every conversation needs to be deep and meaningful. There are good reasons and lots of instances where a quick, superficial or transactional conversation is all that’s needed. Just look at how annoying it is when one of those pesky telemarketers tries to engage in ‘normal’ conversation by inquiring after your day. Yuk! And it’s pretty hard to have deep and interesting conversations if you’ve got nothing to talk about – so you have to live your life too.

Maybe we’re all searching for ways to live our life, get on with things and have time and space to talk about what’s important with who’s important to us. I know I am.

1 Comment so far

  1. Stuart Reid on July 25, 2010 7:17 pm

    Hi Viv – I don’t think it’s micro-blogging etc that is making us crave deeper conversation. I think it’s a pretty basic human need that is always there. It might be though that we notice the need more when we realise it’s not being fulfilled.

    You wrote:

    “Some people might ask how long they have to discuss such-and-such a topic. The answer is irrelevant. We don’t have conversations by the clock.”

    I liked this. It reminded me of a phrase that Susan Scott uses in ‘Fierce Conversations’, about ‘discovering what the conversation wants and needs to be about’. Some conversations have a topic and a purpose that only emerges when you slow down enough to be able to listen.

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