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by Sara Luther
with all due respect...

…want better convos? Then create better convos.

I’m spiked. In Brené Brown’s weekly digest today (April 10, 2024) she shares that they are experimenting with a comments section on the website and poses the question:

“Is it possible to have meaningful convos and debate on what’s going on in the world today? The jury is still out.”

I’m surprised that Brené dropped this one. It’s not the narrow question of whether we can have meaningful convos on social media, or with those who have hard-line different positions they, you, or …

It was the broad-stroke question of whether we can have them at all.

My visceral, heart-felt reaction is YES!

Not only can we have them, we need to have them, we are obligated to have them, and we are responsible for modelling how to have them.

What is a meaningful convo? I’m going to keep it simple. It’s what you and others entering a conversation agree will be meaningful. (Don’t agree – don’t have the convo!)

What does it take to have meaningful convos? In our work with organizations, we are often in environments with real/perceived power imbalances, tension, low morale, divisive perspectives, and sometimes a shoestring of credibility in senior leadership. Bringing people together is critical. Doing something useful is essential.

In my experience, a generous amount of time needs to be dedicated to the setup, construction, exit strategy and aftercare. Here are a few prompts to consider:

  1. The purpose of the convo is clear, agreed to, and honoured throughout.  Are you coming together to share/debate/discuss/decide/learn/reflect? (Not…I know I asked you to share your thoughts on the re-org, but I think it’s a good time to discuss your low performance this quarter.)
  2. The format is cleverly aligned with the purpose to ensure all voices can be honoured. (There’s nothing worse than being invited to a brainstorming session about low morale and then having someone just present their already established solutions.)
  3. Care is taken to name and normalize that which often gets sidelined but is essential for the “meaningful” part to be real.   (For example, saying, we have Kleenex as tears may show up today and please know we see you.)
  4. Everyone is willingly participating and knows their exit strategy options.  (Nothing good happens when someone feels trapped in a discussion!)
  5. After-care is planned and intentional. Just because the convo is done, doesn’t mean the processing is finished.  (This is as simple as checking in later with someone and thanking them for what they contributed.  It also could mean deeper follow-up depending on the subject matter.)

Lots more we could cover here, and my preference is to BE IN conversation with you. Reach out if you want to explore this more as I need you to also belief that meaningful convos are available to us!