“Conversation” Is More Than A Buzzword

Nancy White points us to "Conversation As A Radical Act."

Key Link: Conversation As A Radical Act (watch the video) and Nancy’s post on the session.

Key Quote:  "Change comes not from grand plans or edicts, but from the repetition of millions of small acts carried out throughout the system, regardless of scale."


My take:  "Conversation" is just that…communication between actual human beings.  This process of real conversation happens millions of times, and is only successful when the interactions are real and genuine, transparent and truthful.  Conversation is the "root act" that creates transformation.

The takeaway is very simple:  If an issue or story is not worthy of conversation between actual individuals as they are going about their lives, it won’t ignite conversation.  If the issue doesn’t ignite conversations, it won’t effect local change.  If local change is not effected, then global change cannot be effected.

If you try to start a campfire with huge logs straight away, it is
impossible to do.  The fire doesn’t catch.  Even applying great
quantities of accelerants will only singe the surface; once the
accelerants are consumed, the logs you hoped to ignite sit cold and
impassive, singed on the outside, but fundamentally unchanged.

The most important thing:  there are no shortcuts.  One can bombard "the market" with "messages," one can try to shortcut the process…but IMHO those tactics don’t cause, can’t cause, long-term change.   It’s analogous to creating a roaring campfire.  How do you start a roaring campfire?  You start with kindling, then add some more, and over time the energy can be awe-inspiring. 

6 Replies to ““Conversation” Is More Than A Buzzword”

  1. Yes, there are no shortcuts. What is becoming more apparent to me is that with our fast/fast/fast lives we need to figure out how we create and hold room for those conversations – in any media or format!

  2. I love your analogy of conversation as a fire … it feels very apt. Particularly in the sense that a good conversation can really ignite the hearts and minds of people and spread between them like wild fire.

    And I agree – the high octane fuel that creates these ‘good’ conversations is meaning. Like you say in your post, if the topic being discussed doesn’t have real meaning in the everyday life (or the deepest dreams) of the people having them, there can be no real conversation – at least as we’re describing it here.

    Thanks for picking up on this thread!

  3. Well said! In libraries – as in many other service industries – we have a lot of “rules.” Many times our challenge is not only to slow down enough to have the conversation but to turn what could start out as a confrontation into a conversation.

  4. Christopher–

    I have had to read your post several times, just to savor all of it over and over…the wonderful metaphor at the end, your no shortcuts observation, the truth that without local change there can be no global change. Wow!

    Will you indulge me a question? You write “real conversation …is only successful when…real and genuine, transparent and truthful.” I struggle to explain to people the difference between conversation and chit-chat. You seem to have given us 4 tests to ease this tussle. Would you kindly expand upon what each of these 4 mean to you? Especially, what is the difference in your mind between real and genuine?

    Thanks, Christopher!

    :- Doug.

  5. Doug, thank you for the comment! With respect to the four items, I suppose there are really only three. For each of those areas, here’s what they imply from my perspective…

    Real and genuine: At its core, to me this means saying what you really think about a product or issue or situation, as opposed to what you are “supposed” to say.

    Transparent: Choosing not to obfuscate positions that may make the conversation “uncomfortable,” but instead addressing those positions head-on and disclosing any potential conflicts.

    Truthful: Just like it says. Telling the truth.

    Thanks again for your comment! Heading over to check out your blog now…

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