I find fascinating the many dimensions involved as we engage in meaningful conversations. Here are some of the ideas I like to keep in mind to facilitate this process.
- When listening to others, am I being aware of their non-verbal language as well as their words?
- Do I make an effort to be present without necessarily talking?
- Do I look directly in the eyes of those I am conversing with?
- Am I receptive to their points of view when they differ from mine?
- Do I make an effort to enter into their own perspective?
There is always ample room for me to improve in fulfillment of these self-assumed goals when I am communicating with others.
In more formal settings, group dialogues have expanded potential to create an environment conducive for a rich experience for all concerned. A dear friend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA belongs to a Book Club that follows an interesting format when they meet once a month. I would like to share what they do, in case this sparks an idea for an interesting new or current activity. After an initial moment of silence to gather the best of themselves, each participant voices (one at a time!) the “gem” that resonated for them from the study they read during the month since their last gathering. This is done without discussion, observation or explanation. Each participant may choose to pass. When each has had a turn, there usually is a straight-line summary. Then they can take their turn, in seating order, to say why their “gem” resonated for them. A participant may choose to pass again. When everyone has spoken those who remained in silence have another opportunity to elaborate on their thoughts. Then a meaningful conversation is opened up for all to share.
Those who attend this Book Club are also familiar with the Goethean Style of Conversation which is conducive to deeper sharing and an experience of unity and completeness. When this happens the potential exists to resolve all situations in peaceful and harmonious ways.
Goethe saw conversing as the Art of Arts. Conversations rest as much on being able to preserve silence as on speaking. Conversations can potentially reach a point where they develop as a living organism, every part being essential and in balance to attain a sense of unity. In this mood, the person who is listening becomes a seedbed for other’s germinal ideas.