On Conversations

When individuals come together and circle up, or even just two individuals encounter each other, there is a subtle art that can be used to detect the general direction in which a conversation will go. It mostly hinges on a question that can be posed in two different ways: “do speak to control the conversation and raise your voice above the others?”. Or, “do you speak to draw out the brightest flashes of others and raise all voices present along with you?”. When someone enters a conversation with a confrontational attitude, the shockwave resounds throughout the group-become-audience. One might “call out” the individual whose intent has been made apparent to the rest if they get the opportunity, but this will now require a strategic maneuver by someone who may to feel comfortable in this posture. “Can I effectively challenge this loud voice who clearly is willing to defend and attack – who has demonstrated this much already?” – this imposition becomes a required step to get anything countervailing into the conversation as a whole.

The smooth functioning of a conversation and so the maximization of the absorption of each participant is difficult to maintain. It means checking the power of one or a few while simultaneously drawing the best out of them. Quickly putting down an overbearing voice as a counter-balancing force can too lead to an oppressive atmosphere: now the one checking power imbalances has (wittingly or unwittingly) usurped a position of power.

The most crucial point I can make here, which is also an argument to persuade a bully, is that each individuals power for acting is further increased by listening and learning to all parties considered. The ability to handle and understand differing perspectives and expressions only will increase the familiarity and fluency one has with the perspectives and expressions of one’s own. When every person’s ideas are pushed to their limits, so will your’s; as each other is forced into a more rigorous and exacting expression, one us pulled up along with them. The challenging of one’s ideas is only an enhancement until they fall apart – this is how to make them stronger.

Some will simply express themselves as if they were the original source of those ideas and lose the prospect of improvement. Resolve is a fine quality that can easily become oppressive. The question to ask another when power levels rise in immediate social interactions is not just “will you step back?” but “What are you getting out of this?”

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2 thoughts on “On Conversations

  1. Wow, so many true and identifiable ideas here. A lot of these thoughts fly in and then out of my head as I engage in different conversational groups. Thanks for putting them all down so I can draw upon this later on and be aware of the various situations I will be in. I think keeping in mind the intention of conversation goes a long way towards having stimulating, memorable, and constructive dialogues.

    • Thanks Isaac. I fell like there is a sensitivity to power fluctuations we can grasp in considering the conversation as a whole. Rather than just flat-out rejecting those imbalances and stoping imposing figures, I think we ought to cultivate them further by including everyone else in the conversation. So far in my experience, this means taking turns, circle go-arounds, and outspoken attention to the more silent people.

      This can be tedious, but is always memorable.

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