There is more to conversations than we think

When working with a group we can engage in conversations, meetings and workshops. The role and design of meetings and workshops are increasingly well understood. Meetings are about decision-making and maintaining momentum, workshops are about developing and organising what work needs to get done.

It is worth considering more deeply what we mean by conversations. In general, conversations work to build understanding and trust. They can be one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many.


Conversations can be face-to-face (in any of the above forms) or asynchronous i.e. different parties don’t engage at the same time, such as an email exchange between colleagues, or they can involve equal participation or be asymmetric, such as attending a lecture where the lecturer plays a larger role in the conversation than a member of the audience who may have no opportunity to speak.

Conversations can be both asynchronous and asymmetric, such as an author writing a book from which a reader gains understanding through engaging with the words. Further, authoring appears to be an example of a one-to-many conversation but it is really a one-to-one conversation, each reader engages with a book in their own way, but it is both asynchronous and asymmetric, as far as conversations go.

We can then say that some forms of conversation lend themselves more to developing trust – those that can embody encounter in some way – face-to-face in any of the three forms – and other forms lend themselves to developing understanding.

To develop both trust and understanding we need a mix of both.

As leaders, we can design a series of conversations, using all forms, depending on what outcomes we seek.

John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.

John Corrigan