Conversations are the currency of our culture and, therefore, of organizations. Without them, business would not occur, ideas would not flourish, collaboration would be stymied and agreements would be limited. “Wait a minute.” you say. “This is 2014. We live in a digital age. We can exchange ideas virtually.” That may be true. I conceive an idea and reflect upon it. I write it down, and email it to you. You send me a response and challenge my ideas and beliefs, or refute my facts. I respond, and we have an exchange. In this exchange, I don’t really need to know you, understand what matters to you, speak with you or have you hear what I’m saying in order to transact business or negotiate daily life. That certainly is true if you think of communication as a linear process — output and input. But, think about it. How many times have you written an email, only to have the reader misconstrue the meaning you intended? How many times have you read an email from a friend and had no clue about what the writer wanted, or what was most important? Technology may be expedient, but most of the time, it is no substitute for good old-fashioned dialogue.
Webster’s defines conversation as “an oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions or ideas.” In other words, talk. I submit that talk matters. After all, my livelihood depends on talk — the narratives of the lives and their work that my clients bring to coaching; the dialogue I enter into with students in the Georgetown Leadership Coaching program, the conversations I have with colleagues that keep me learning about our profession. These are all conversations that matter to me. They enrich my life, and they make me grow.
What conversations matter for you? What are you longing to convey? What do you want to know about your colleagues, your stakeholders, your customers, your friends and your family? In what situations does it matter that you share a commitment and want to understand how your coworkers, your team and your management, your children, your husband believe and desire. What do you want to share with them? Where does full engagement count? And, what are you doing to make this happen?