There are three conversations that you can have at any given time.
Philosophical—This is the 50,000-foot, “big idea” conversation. Not many people are capable of connecting together big ideas. Nor is everybody capable of (or interested in) exploring the ramifications of the implementation of those big ideas to their lives, either at work or at home. Many people would rather not think (or talk) in 50,000-foot terms and instead would rather seal off the considerations, thoughts, and even ideas, that a 50,000-foot philosophical conversation brings up, and never think about them ever again.
Strategic—These are the 10,000-foot conversations that occur every day between members of middle management inside of organizations. These are the conversations people think they are having inside of brainstorming sessions at work. These conversations are about ideas (ostensibly) but they quickly move to being about people (gossip) or about repeating a personal story as if it were a public truism (storytelling). Many people like the feel and the tenor of a strategic conversation, because conversations like these usually wind up with someone else doing the hard work of formulating a plan, developing next steps, and implementing a policy or a change.
Practical—These are the “How do I deal with what’s 5 inches in front of my face?” conversations. Practical conversations are about getting to the point, getting past the “fluff,” disengaging with emotion (if at all possible) and making a point forcefully and persuasively. Practical conversations don’t typically involve discussing facts—just impressions that the facts left behind as they floated up into the strategic conversation realm. Most people enjoy practical conversations because they allow for a focus on “getting things done.”
The three conversations—just like the three feedback conversations—happen almost simultaneously in meetings, face-to-face interactions, and most notably, in conflict communication scenarios.
If you want to communicate beautifully, know which conversation you’re having with which audience.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: email@example.com