90. Is conversation the mother of all invention?

There’s a big difference between talking and having a conversation. (Duh.) When you talk or chat, you can exchange important information. You can make plans. You can give directions and present the findings of some research you’ve done. A conversation — at least in the way that I will conveniently define it for the sake of this thought process! — asks more of its participants.

A bit of etymology. The root of the word conversation is the Latin verb vertere meaning, among other definitions, “to turn.”

That rings true to me. If we stretch it a bit, we can find “turn” in a lot of what makes for a good conversation.

  1. We turn towards each other. The best conversations involve good body language.
  2. We take turns talking. A conversation must include multi-directional exchange.
  3. We turn ideas over in our minds. Conversations benefit from time for silence during which to grapple with what has been said and form new thoughts.
  4. We turn off distractions. A good conversation is engaging. Especially early in the conversation, however, we have to set ourselves up to be engaged. Distractions must be put aside.

I’ve thought about the power of good conversations more in 2015, because the state of the conversation is at a very interesting point. Some forces erode our ability to converse; others facilitate it. More than not, the tools for encouraging great conversation are greater than ever and improving quickly.

  1. Smartphones: Distract but provide crucial discussion fodder.
  2. Email: As long as people take the time to write more than one sentence or thought at a time, email can be like letter writing. That’s a good thing.
  3. Texting / Messaging: Some formats are better than others. It can be problematic when we fall into a rhythm that’s too staccato.
  4. Podcasts: Capturing conversations for other people to listen to promotes the art.

Conversations matter because creative and novel thinking is not a lone wolf operation. Progress pre-requires the exchange of knowledge, the consideration of other people’s thoughts, the presentation and challenging of ideas. Conversation is really good at those things. Ergo: progress pre-requires conversation.

Note to reader: This is post 90 of 92 in my commitment to write for 30 minutes each day from October 1 through the end of 2015. I am 10 days behind in delivering posts 88–92! Previous posts can be found here.

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