I’m delighted to welcome you to my blog. I’m excited to be starting a conversation with you about… conversation. I believe that talking together is central in our lives. If we improve how we converse, we enrich our lives.
Walking down Oxford Street in central London last week, I saw an ad in the window of HSBC bank. It read: “A world of investments is just one conversation away”. It made me think how valuable a single conversation can be and how a career can change as a result of one short talk.
Some years ago, I spoke with a fellow consultant about my passion for dialogue. I was inspired by Bill Isaacs’ work, particularly his book Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together. We often think of dialogue as between two people, but Bill had described how to create a conversation amongst 20 people so they could access their collective wisdom.
“But what’s your thinking on dialogue?” my colleague asked. “What do you have to say?”
I was so stirred by his question that I went home and sketched out some ideas. Several years later, when I received an unexpected email from the commissioning editor of Duncan Baird Publishing asking me to submit a proposal for a book on conversation, I dug out the scrappy notes that I’d tucked away. Because of that short talk years earlier, I wasn’t too overwhelmed at having to write a book proposal. Nearly a year later, when I delivered the manuscript for my book, Life-Changing Conversations, I gave thanks for the gift of that question from my colleague.
Talking together brings many benefits. A conversation:
- Forms friendships
- Brings comfort
- Airs issues
- Informs our decisions
- Creates new ideas
- Deepens connections
- Changes how we think about things.
No wonder we spend so much of our time talking!
The research bears this out. If I asked you what proportion of your waking life you spend talking, what would you say? When I put this question to managers and leaders at my dialogue workshops, the typical response is somewhere between 40 and 80 per cent. Moreover, a consistent pattern emerges: the more senior a leader, the more time he or she spends interacting with others.
In 2010, a Courage Beer survey revealed how much we talk in our everyday lives. In a sample of 3,000 British adults, the typical person had 27 conversations a day, lasting an average of 10 minutes each. This adds up to a rather staggering 4.5 hours a day talking.
Even more startling was that, while conversations were commonplace, nearly half of them (43 per cent) were deemed pointless. More meaningful talk would make a huge difference to the quality of our lives. And so to the question: What makes a good conversation?
I look forward to exploring with you how we can expand our capacity to talk, even when there are tough things to say. I welcome your comments, queries and insights, and I want to hear your stories about the power of conversation, for good or for ill, in your lives.