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What is a Generative Conversation?
A generative conversation is basically a dialogue among people interested in learning and exchanging ideas about a topic they have agreed to talk about. More specifically, dialogue is: “shared exploration towards greater understanding, connection, or possibility” (Co-Intelligence Institute).
Another way of saying this is that dialogue is the art of listening together. An effective generative conversation, then, has people engaged in the sharing of perspectives, questions and ideas that produce a common understanding and help identify a common sense of direction or conclusion.
Effective Generative Conversations are reliant on the following assumptions of those engaged in the conversation, as follows:
- All of us are here to learn and help one another learn so that we may find or craft an aligned understanding.
- All of us have something to offer and it is important that we really listen to one another, that we are intentional about understanding one another’s views, ideas, and experience.
- It is important to everyone that we talk about what is really important to us as a group and equally as important that we help to ensure we do not drift into other conversations best saved for another time.
- We accept that each participant has an obligation to speak about what is true for them, but in speaking what is true for “me” to never do so in way where “my truth” must prove another wrong.
- We understand that our ideas and perspectives are often based on our biases and that part of learning and working together involves overcoming biases that block progress.
- We are willing to live with some silence, some pauses in the conversation so that people can reflect. As well we avoid monopolizing the conversation. We make sure everyone has a chance to speak.
Avoid Show Stopping
Sometimes they backfire!
Tips on Having
Effective Generative Conversation
People often get their backs up when they feel accused of something or blamed for why the conversation is not progressing well. For example, instead of saying “You are frustrating me,” say “I am frustrated; maybe you can help me understand better what you are saying.”
Instead of saying “You are wrong” or “Your point of view is flawed,” say something like, “We seem to be in different places on this. Let’s try to identify the key points that separate us.”
Avoid “You Think You Got It Bad”
How often have you heard someone say something like “Oh that’s not so bad. Here is what happened to me.” When that happens to you, do you feel heard?
Avoid Moralizing and Being Preachy
Sometimes people will say something that runs against the grain of your belief system or your personal values.
It is probable that the person talking has no intent on questioning or attacking your values; so, set aside your reaction (yes, it’s hard) and continue to listen. Be sure you understand before moving the conversation to one of values and core beliefs.
Avoid saying things like: “I think I have a better solution” or “If we do that, it will make matters worse” or “You should really pay more attention to….” Such statements do not facilitate conversation.
Avoid the “Yeh, But” Conversation Stopper
The first word in that statement is rarely an affirmation but rather a sedge way to offer your disagreement with the other person. Those two words quickly turn a conversation into a debate, the latter rarely being a foundation for generative conversation.