How to become a more respectful conversation partner

20 years ago, I worked in the field of health promotion and well-being. I managed a program for vulnerable groups.

I remember the afternoon I met young adults with a hearing impairment for a conversation. The gathering is still fresh in my mind. I don’t recall the topic of our discussion.

I will never forget what I witnessed.

We were dispersed in the room, some sitting around tables, some standing. Everyone could see each other.

The first person started to talk, and everyone turned towards her to listen, reading from her lips and hands till she was finished. Then the next person shared. Others added their thoughts and ideas. The conversation was lively and animated, at a certain moment even a little agitated.

Yet, each person was able to speak without interruption. The quality of listening was extraordinary. Most of them spoke in sign language. I was helped by an interpreter (since I was the only handicapped person in the room who could not understand sign language).

I was flabbergasted. Touched by how natural and respectful listeners these young people are.

What made this possible?

They took turns.

They respected the basic rhythm of a conversation involving everyone as a speaker and as a listener.

Only years later I discovered conversation processes such as Circle Practice, Unhurried Conversation, and Conversation Cafe that included explicit turn-taking using a talking piece.

Everyone agrees at the start that only the person holding a chosen object (often a sugar bowl) is allowed to talk. Once the speaker has finished, they put the object down, signalling that they have said what they want to say. Someone else then picks up the object and takes their turn.

Johnnie Moore

The young people with hearing impairment did not need a talking piece. They knew how to listen.

If you want to find out how the processes work, find here the links:

Contact me if you would love to have more nurturing conversations and more jointly co-created and cared-for gatherings.

Enjoy your learning moment,

PS. For upcoming learning opportunities check:

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Visualisation: ‘in conversation’ by Nadia von Holzen