New conversations lead to new possibilities

Sometimes you need to get people talking so that they can generate new conversations. Within conversation, it's possible to share beliefs, energy and facts in ways that lead to new thinking and new results. So how do you set up a productive conversation?

Often, I work with people who do not yet know each other. I warm them up with a combination of slightly surprising perspectives and the larger surprise that someone is paying attention to them. I set them up with a question to explore or a story to tell and instructions to practice. And then they have conversations. Their phones stay on the table, and their eyes get brighter, and the noise and the energy in the room builds. They get curious and engaged and then they get satisfied. Because real conversation satisfies the need of the human animal to connect and move.

© Can Stock Photo / edharcanstock

Sometimes I work with people who already know each other. That's much harder for 3 reasons:

  1. It's hard to warm them up because they are paying as much attention to each other as they are to me.
  2. It's hard to set them up, because they immediately think of stories that exist in the context of what they already know about each other.
  3. It's hard for them to be curious because they think they know where all the limits are.
It's a challenge to get people who know each other to be curious about each other. Either they reinforce their preconceptions (which feels good but doesn't grow new possibilities) or they have to face the fact that the world is not exactly what they think it is. Even familiar people can be hard to predict. It's natural for that to be an uncomfortable thought.

This doesn't mean that people you know can't engage in wonderful, deep, curious conversations. It does mean that when you recognize the challenge, you can equip yourself with the combination of comfort and curiosity that it takes to get the conversation started.

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