Conversation is a space. One in which certain dynamics can be created to protect fragile new ideas until they are ready to be implemented. As well, an environment conducive to open thought and exchange for the benefit and growth of all parties involved.
Alas, we live in an age where sound bites pass for communication, a time of polls and surveys that tend to blur meaning and sway opinions. How do we know what we think anymore?
When we accept our role in the conversation, we can then shift our attention on creating this space. In Dialogue: The Art Of Thinking Together, William Isaacs describes some characteristics of a successful conversation.
He says (emphasis is mine):
Respect also means honoring people's boundaries to the point of protecting them. If you respect someone, you do not intrude. At the same time, if you respect someone, you do not withhold yourself or distance yourself from them. I have heard many people claim they were respecting someone by leaving them alone, when in fact they were simply distancing themselves from something they did not want to deal with. When we respect someone, we accept that they have things to teach us.
Treat the person next to you as a teacher. What is it that they have to teach you that you do not now know? Listening to them in this way, you discover things that might surprise you.
Respect is, in this sense, looking for what is highest and best in a person and treating them as a mystery that you can never fully comprehend. They are a part of the whole, and, in a very particular sense, a part of us.
It may begin with education and with learning to exercise our critical thinking muscle.
One of the necessary stops along the way is how we view ourselves in relation to others. If we become open to receiving the signal that comes from the other(s), we begin to appreciate that we had let complexity intimidate us -- people are not to be figured out. Only then, we are available to the learning opportunity and how it connects with us.
The art of listening also applies to us. Do we listen to ourselves and our reactions?
Every conversation has its own acoustics. Each one takes place in an environment that has both physical, and external, dimensions as well as internal, or mental and emotional, dimensions. There is, in other words, an invisible architecture to the container. Most such structures are made for discussion, for thinking alone. We have very few designed for thinking together, for dialogue.
This is such a simple concept, yet one so difficult to implement. What are we listening for? Are we willing to suspend our internal dialogue for a moment and join the conversation in real time?
True dialogue permits inquiry, confrontation, and clarification. No one person owns this 'free flow of meaning', and if we begin to see it that way, then we can think of extensions of what others are saying, instead of anchoring ourselves in our hang-ups.
The Internet can be seen as the attempt of your literate and isolated culture to somehow return to community. People seem to imagine that if we are all digitally connected, then we would all be in touch, and the great malaise of the age - the isolation, pace, disconnection that many of us feel - would be allayed. But so far the digital revolution is giving us connection but not contact.
one simple touch of a human hand could far exceed all the impact of all the digital libraries in the land.
I offer this final thought for your consideration. This is possible, we just must find our own way to it. An African storyteller once said: "I lay down my story so that somebody else can pick it up."