Niagara Gazette

January 13, 2014

What are we all talking about? How conversations can improve lives

By Claire Knowles
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — My daughter once added to the enjoyment of a long road trip by bringing a book on conversations starters that tickled the mind and helped all of us get to know each other even better. The personal responses were delightful. Yet at the same time, deeper connections were forming.

Many have written about the importance of authentic conversations, specifically that the conversation actually is the barometer of the relationship. The relationship essentially can be identified, deepened or lessened, or improved or negated by the degree of authenticity we bring to our conversations. We all know the difference between a superficial conversation and a powerful, authentic one.

Author Susan Scott challenges the individual — you and me. She writes, “On a personal note: What’s the conversation out there with your name on it?  The one you’ve been avoiding for days, weeks, months, years? Who is it with and what’s the topic? “

She also challenges an organization’s leadership to hold the long overdue conversations. “What is the most important thing we should be talking about today?” Can you imagine what progress could happen if everyone was involved in advancing the intentions and work of the organization as a whole? Can you imagine the increased productivity and coherence that could happen if the elephants in the room and the un-discussables were genuinely lifted up and resolved.? What if you raised this same question with your family at the dinner table and were open to really listening and authentically engaging?

Some of the most important conversations you hold in life are the ones you hold with yourself. Have you noticed your self-talk lately? How is it influencing your choices? Do you hear limiting statements like “I can’t” or “Yes ... but?” Are you retreating into yourself or facing yourself head on?

What if the next conversation you had with yourself started this way? “Self ... what is the most important thing we should be talking about today? “ And, tell the truth — speak directly to the heart of the issue.

Some recommended reading to get conversations going in your life include Meg Wheatley’s book, “Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future,” which details how conversation can help to heal many things from personal relationships to organizational dysfunction to world discord.   I also suggest Susan Scott’s book, “Fierce Conversations ... Achieving Success at Work and in Life: One Conversation at a Time.”

Claire Knowles of Lewiston is a leadership consultant who works primarily women’s organizations, groups and businesses. The above is an excerpt from her book “ Lights On! A Reflective Journey.” For more information visit www.claireeknowles.com.