conversations at northern voice

conversations are at the heart of my practice. conversations are what i was hoping for when i first started this blog. conversations was one of the topics at this year’s northern voice blogging conference – i facilitated a little presentation about it at moosecamp (the first day’s unconference) in connection with the vancouver bloggers meetup.

what are the ingredients of a good conversation, online or offline? one of them, we decided, is transparency. that means there should be as few walls as possible between the conversation partners so that they have a clear view of each other. sometimes, blogging anonymously reduces this transparency (i don’t know who you are in “meatspace” – in the physical world). but there is much more to transparency. letting the other know what’s going on in our lives creates transparency, as does honesty, and letting others participate in our thought processes.

another interesting thing that came up in our discussion was that conversations create knowledge about each other but also about ourselves. even for bloggers who don’t have many readers or comments, as they are writing, they have a conversation with themselves.

pix zak geant human sculpture at moosecampand are conversations just with words? for example, zak geant, one of the 200 or so attendees and presenters, created a series of photographs where he had conference participants physically represent where they are on a number of continua in the blogging world – for example, how many years they had been blogging, how many posts they posted a month, etc. participating in this human sculpture felt like a sort of conversation to me. here you can see us “graph” where we stand in terms of how zen-like (“shakeresque”, zak called it) or busy (baroque) our blogs are in appearance.

nancy white’s two wonderful presentations felt like conversations in and of themselves. her laid-back, very transparent and interactive approach to facilitation almost made me forget the theatre-style classroom environment, an environment made for old-style teaching (the teacher in the front as expert transmits knowledge to the students who are all focused on the one teacher-point).

her presentation, holding paradox in the palm of your hand, brought up the topic of questions, something that always interests me. there, questions were seen as inviting, particularly when they are specific.

in my experience, questions can be seen either as opening the door to more conversation, or as some sort of hole in the dam of knowledge that then needs to be plugged with a quick answer. and then there are people who have had bed bad [<-- freudian slip???] experiences with questions and see them as demanding or even as interrogations. i'll be talking a lot more about conversations in the weeks to come. in the meantime, here's a ... well, a question: what do you think makes a good conversation?

11 thoughts on “conversations at northern voice

  1. Jan Karlsbjerg

    Sorry I couldn’t make it to that discussion. So much else to do at the conference!

    “BED experiences with questions” ?!? πŸ™‚

    OK, back on topic. What’s needed for conversations depend much on the topic and the culture. Nancy’s figure with three different type of setups for blogs + comments illustrated that nicely.

    1. CEO blogger: Unless some sort of anonymity is guaranteed, most of the staff will abstain from commenting on anything
    2. The three PhD-bloggers: These guys absolutely want credit for their clever comments (no anonymity here) but they may want the conversation closed (semi-private blog).
    3. Community of interest (knit-bloggers etc.): The participants want credit for their comments (but they may prefer to be known by a nome de guerre, not their actual name), visibility (pointing people to their own blogs), community, togetherness.

    The technology has to provide the features that the audience is seeking for that particular discussion, their particular role in this community (an individual could easily be a member of all three types of communities, and want different conversation features in each type of community).

    Taking the discussion onto your own professional world, it’s my understanding that there should be solid shutters between Joe the Therapist and Joe the Private Guy. No transparency here, thank you very much.

    So: What kind of conversation do you want?

  2. Jan Karlsbjerg

    Sorry I couldn’t make it to that discussion. So much else to do at the conference!

    “BED experiences with questions” ?!? πŸ™‚

    OK, back on topic. What’s needed for conversations depend much on the topic and the culture. Nancy’s figure with three different type of setups for blogs + comments illustrated that nicely.

    1. CEO blogger: Unless some sort of anonymity is guaranteed, most of the staff will abstain from commenting on anything
    2. The three PhD-bloggers: These guys absolutely want credit for their clever comments (no anonymity here) but they may want the conversation closed (semi-private blog).
    3. Community of interest (knit-bloggers etc.): The participants want credit for their comments (but they may prefer to be known by a nome de guerre, not their actual name), visibility (pointing people to their own blogs), community, togetherness.

    The technology has to provide the features that the audience is seeking for that particular discussion, their particular role in this community (an individual could easily be a member of all three types of communities, and want different conversation features in each type of community).

    Taking the discussion onto your own professional world, it’s my understanding that there should be solid shutters between Joe the Therapist and Joe the Private Guy. No transparency here, thank you very much.

    So: What kind of conversation do you want?

  3. thekenshow

    A good conversation brings the particpants to deeper awareness and new ideas. It can purposeful or undirected, but in essence it is generative and collective. A good conversation is more than a sharing of ideas, more than the spreading of knowledge; it is the emergence of new intersubjective meaning. It’s not a bad way to pass the time over Guinness, either πŸ˜‰

  4. thekenshow

    A good conversation brings the particpants to deeper awareness and new ideas. It can purposeful or undirected, but in essence it is generative and collective. A good conversation is more than a sharing of ideas, more than the spreading of knowledge; it is the emergence of new intersubjective meaning. It’s not a bad way to pass the time over Guinness, either πŸ˜‰

  5. isabella mori

    hi jan

    The technology has to provide the features that the audience is seeking for that particular discussion, their particular role in this community … So: What kind of conversation do you want?

    that’s a good question. it reframes very nicely another question i’ve been asking, which is, “what is the conversational context?”

    my first reaction to your question is, i want a conversation where my readers feel invited to participate. ideally, this participation, at least sometimes, goes beyond responding. i love comments like yours that say, “… and did you think about THIS? and what about THAT idea over there?”

    in nancy-white-speak, that would be the community-of-interest blogger. which means that eventually, i’ll have to have more conversational/interactional modes on this blog. (forums? wikis? regular chats?)

    i’ll be thinking about this some more. i just found that nancy white has a great checklist regarding interactional purposes, so let’s see what happens there …

    Taking the discussion onto your own professional world, itÒ€ℒs my understanding that there should be solid shutters between Joe the Therapist and Joe the Private Guy. No transparency here, thank you very much.

    i’m not quite sure what you’re referring to here; there are many angles from which to look at this topic. my paper on countertransference may have something to say about this.

    to my mind, the long and short of this is:

    1. as a therapist, i need to make it abundantly clear to my clients and myself that the work is about THEM, not about me
    2. talking about me is helpful if and when it serves one or both of these two therapeutic purposes – a) to build the human connection between the client and myself; and b) it may be a teaching tool, as virginia satir puts it (e.g. “when i had this problem, this is how i dealt with it”)
    3. in all public communication (as in this blog), i need to do my utmost to protect client confidentiality

  6. isabella mori

    hi jan

    The technology has to provide the features that the audience is seeking for that particular discussion, their particular role in this community … So: What kind of conversation do you want?

    that’s a good question. it reframes very nicely another question i’ve been asking, which is, “what is the conversational context?”

    my first reaction to your question is, i want a conversation where my readers feel invited to participate. ideally, this participation, at least sometimes, goes beyond responding. i love comments like yours that say, “… and did you think about THIS? and what about THAT idea over there?”

    in nancy-white-speak, that would be the community-of-interest blogger. which means that eventually, i’ll have to have more conversational/interactional modes on this blog. (forums? wikis? regular chats?)

    i’ll be thinking about this some more. i just found that nancy white has a great checklist regarding interactional purposes, so let’s see what happens there …

    Taking the discussion onto your own professional world, itÒ€ℒs my understanding that there should be solid shutters between Joe the Therapist and Joe the Private Guy. No transparency here, thank you very much.

    i’m not quite sure what you’re referring to here; there are many angles from which to look at this topic. my paper on countertransference may have something to say about this.

    to my mind, the long and short of this is:

    1. as a therapist, i need to make it abundantly clear to my clients and myself that the work is about THEM, not about me
    2. talking about me is helpful if and when it serves one or both of these two therapeutic purposes – a) to build the human connection between the client and myself; and b) it may be a teaching tool, as virginia satir puts it (e.g. “when i had this problem, this is how i dealt with it”)
    3. in all public communication (as in this blog), i need to do my utmost to protect client confidentiality

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  9. Belladonna

    I was taught in the past to practice being a good listener, with the caution that “when you are talking, you can’t learn anything because you already know what you have to say…you have two ears and one mouth, so that’s the creator’s way of saying you should listen twice as much as you talk.”

    I acknowledge that true listening is powerful and most of us could do better in practicing being fully present to what others say.

    However, I find that I DO learn when I am talking. When I am in TRUE conversation, sharing words in an authentic manner with another, I am able to experiment with owning feelings, fears, hopes, thoughts, ideas in new ways as I clothe these intangible glipses with words. As I verbalize what I am only beginning to discover myself I make new discoveries.

    To me, the best conversations are the ones where both/all parties involve can strike a balance between safety and vulnerability, to take chances with exploring meaning-making rather than merely playing expected roles.

  10. Belladonna

    I was taught in the past to practice being a good listener, with the caution that “when you are talking, you can’t learn anything because you already know what you have to say…you have two ears and one mouth, so that’s the creator’s way of saying you should listen twice as much as you talk.”

    I acknowledge that true listening is powerful and most of us could do better in practicing being fully present to what others say.

    However, I find that I DO learn when I am talking. When I am in TRUE conversation, sharing words in an authentic manner with another, I am able to experiment with owning feelings, fears, hopes, thoughts, ideas in new ways as I clothe these intangible glipses with words. As I verbalize what I am only beginning to discover myself I make new discoveries.

    To me, the best conversations are the ones where both/all parties involve can strike a balance between safety and vulnerability, to take chances with exploring meaning-making rather than merely playing expected roles.

  11. Pingback: more on online conversations: twittering with robert scoble » change therapy - isabella mori

  12. Pingback: more on online conversations: twittering with robert scoble » change therapy - isabella mori

  13. Chelle

    Very interesting! I think good conversation comes with people who feel comfortable in opening up to each other and exploring different perspective together – too much one sidedness or agreement is boring, and yet too much opposition is not good either!

    Some questions are good to ask, but then there are some people you honestly feel like you are being interrogated by – which is definitely where you start looking for those quick “fill in the hole” answers, lol. great read, thank you πŸ™‚ I will have to visit here again!

    Chelle’s last blog post..The Pursuit of Happiness: The Secrets to Being Happy

  14. Chelle

    Very interesting! I think good conversation comes with people who feel comfortable in opening up to each other and exploring different perspective together – too much one sidedness or agreement is boring, and yet too much opposition is not good either!

    Some questions are good to ask, but then there are some people you honestly feel like you are being interrogated by – which is definitely where you start looking for those quick “fill in the hole” answers, lol. great read, thank you πŸ™‚ I will have to visit here again!

    Chelle’s last blog post..The Pursuit of Happiness: The Secrets to Being Happy

  15. Pingback: Northern Voice, With Peas

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