Speech Acts 4: Conversations for Possibility

The fourth post in a series exploring Speech Acts – the foundations of speaking and listening to make meaningful action possible.

If you’ve taken the time to have a meaningful conversation for relationship with the people around you, you’ll have discovered whether you have any shared interests, commitments, or concerns – the basis for getting into action together.

Now it’s time for a conversation for possibility, where you’ll speak and listen to discover what you might actually get up to with each other.

A conversation for possibility is not a conversation for action. You’re not committing yet to do anything in particular, apart from finding out what could happen, what could open up, what new connections could be made, which paths could be followed.

Allow everyone the space to bring their ideas, keeping the mood open as possible. Saying “yes, but…” in this conversation will close things down before they’ve had the space to take wing. There’s no need to defend ideas, pull them apart, point out flaws, or decide how a plan will unfold. You’ll get to all of that later. Speak and listen with the intention of opening space so that something meaningful, creative, and significant can emerge.

Sometimes we try to have conversations for possibility without first establishing relationship. We think we can fake a genuine connection and sense of shared concern. This is very hard to pull off. There’s no energy for creating possibilities if we don’t care about much in common. But we try to do it anyway. Perhaps you’ve been in some of the endless meetings for possibility in the organisational world that take place without genuine relationship, and know how flat, dispiriting and confusing that can feel.

And some of us find conversations for possibility very difficult, because we’re so used to poking holes in other people’s ideas. You’ll need to spot this in yourself and set it aside if you want anything to flourish in this conversation.

One of the most common ways you can make conversations for possibility difficult is by failing to name them for what they are. If any of the people you’re with think they’re in a conversation for action, they’ll probably be thinking of all the practical implications of the ideas, and of all the difficulties they’ll have to resolve. Don’t be surprised if they become the objectors, the ones who try to close new ideas down before they’ve started.

By being clear about which conversation you’re intending to have, you’ll give yourselves all much more room to explore, to breathe, and to create something new. And you’ll create a space in which hopes, aspirations, and creativity can take wing.

You can read more on ‘Speech Acts’ – conversations, requests and promises – here.


Photo Credit: esther** via Compfight cc

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