Blog > On the need for conversation

October 29, 2008

At about this time of year (every year) I have a huge need to be in conversation with people – one or two people at a time, not groups. And to have the sort of conversations that are nourishing and complicated and funny and satisfying. That means moving beyond skimming across the surface of any topic, and really getting to the meaty bits, the uncomfortable stuff, insights even.

So what’s this all about? Why now? I think it’s to do with being a facilitator and living in Australia. (Or maybe it’s just me *smile*)

As a facilitator I’m always listening to the conversations of others – I’m a disinterested participant, there to hold the space and stay out of the way. Consequently I tend to know a lot about a little. I have a breadth of knowledge, but that knowledge isn’t very deep. I stay on the surface to enable me to do my facilitator role – I can see what’s going on all around and I can stay detached from the topic.

Living in southern Australia has a particular rhythm. About the middle of December, our world winds down for Xmas and the summer holidays. In early February it’s go, go, go as the new school year starts and everything tries to get done before Easter. The pace slows from Easter until the end of August. September is like the hibernating beast being roused. It quickly gets warmer, there’s lots of activities and festivals and the footy grand final of course. A punctuation mark in the year. Then there’s October – a warm-up to summer. November and December are again frantic as Xmas looms, shopping, cards, and just about everyone wants everything finished by Xmas.

So about October/November I’m done with facilitating others – I need some selfish, ‘me’ time. I want to have conversations. I don’t want to be disinterested any more. I don’t want to keep my opinions to myself. I don’t want to stay unemotional. I want to be opinionated. And when I’ve got that out of my system, I want to be challenged, and I want to hear what you have to say. I want to have a conversation, not chatter.

Luckily it’s about this time of year that I go away for a weekend of winery visits, eating, drinking and yes! conversation with a group of close friends. And as the weather warms up, I have a regular appointment every Friday afternoon to go swimming with my friends Geoff and Lyn. The water is usually bloody freezing, so after a short time actually in the water, we sit on the beach and talk. Such a gift.

And another thing!

‘The action is in the interaction’ is a mantra from Solutions-Focus. This is one of those things that just sounds right! I figure I should understand it, and at an intellectual level I do. But not really. Not in my bones. Until the other day at the improv conference. I can’t even remember what happened. I do remember that amazing rush of insight as I finally ‘got it’. (BTW, there must be a chemical released when we have big ah-ha! moments – anyone know?) Now I realise I’d been saying the same thing, just differently. For months I’ve been raging against the need for action as an output from conversations and pleading for space simply for the conversations, and to see the conversation itself as the action: the action IS in the interaction (in this case, a conversation). So pleased I finally sorted that one out. Now to move on to ‘liminal space’.

And this is why Open Space is such a gift. It gives us space for conversations – small AND big.


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