Hi again everyone,
“The quality of our conversations, determines the quality of our relationships”
Associate Professor Michael Cavanagh, 
Deputy Director, Coaching Psychology Unit, University of Sydney

Last week I was invited and excited to attend an event hosted by the Sydney Theatre Company at Walsh Bay for the “School of Life” (www.theschooloflifecom). Since I’ve been an avid follower of SOL since it first launched in 2008, including a visit to their shop in London back in 2012, you can imagine how delighted I was to hear about their newly opened shop in Melbourne (Bourke St), also recently in Perth and soon to be in Sydney.

SOL takes philosophy, psychology and other various studies of the humanities and creates “user-friendly” classes and Sunday Sermons!  They do exactly what we here at PI also attempt to do – assist people to live better lives.

At the STC event, a SOL “faculty member” led us through an abridged version of one of the SOL workshops entitled “How to have better conversations”.  He provided a history of conversation that included reference to Samuel Johnson and David Hume, famous essayists and apparently skilled conversationalists.  He also suggested that women traditionally were not invited or known for their conversational skills, which of course in today’s world, seems absurd.  Of course, there were the courtesans of the Italian renaissance who were renowned for their wit, charm and conversational skills.

We were then invited to consider some of the key elements of having a “better conversation” and to engage in conversation with our fellow participants.  Without giving away the content of the SOL class (which you may choose to attend if you’re lucky enough to live in or be visiting Melbourne – http://www.theschooloflife.com/melbourne/shop – I’ve decided to provide three of my own top tips for having better conversations…

1. Start with Heart – this is the first rule in a classic text called “Crucial Conversations” (http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9780071771320?redirected=true&gclid=CK6m8JuaksECFZcmvQodkKMAeA) – a must-read for anyone interested in having better conversations, particularly the sort of conversations that are “high-stake” where emotions run high.  “Start with Heart” means being clear about your intention for the conversation and cultivating a sense of compassion and loving-kindness for the person you are engaging in conversation with.

2. Watch your Words – As per our opening quote –  “the quality of our conversations, determines the quality of our relationships”.  If you’re mindless and unconscious of your words and deeds, then the quality of the conversation will indeed suffer.  Whereas a “conscious relationship” is one marked by thoughtfulness and care of the other in conversation rather that it purely being about conveying my opinion on the matter.

3. Be Curious – this tip relates to the growing evidence base on mindfulness.   Curiosity is often included in the definition of mindfulness ie bringing a gentle curiosity and a non-judgemental stance to our thoughts and emotions.  Mindful curiosity is crucial to having better conversations as when we’re “mindless” we’re more likely to make assumptions or jump to conclusions about the other person’s message or intention.  Being curious allows us to be more aware of our biases and stereotypes and to decide whether we choose to buy into the stories we may be telling ourselves.  This sense of curiosity about ourselves and the other, allows us the opportunity to not only have better conversations but better relationships.

The Challenge

Firstly, set a goal to increase your levels of mindfulness.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Setting a goal or broad intention to “be more mindful” can help but signing up for a class to learn more about mindfulness and more importantly to engage in regular practice may be more helpful – check out http://www.openground.com.au/

Secondly, be a lover, not a fighter. Try to bring more loving-kindness to every relationship you have – not just your close ones.  Professor Barbara Fredrickson, in her book Love 2.0 – http://www.bookdepository.com/Love-2-0-Barbara-Fredrickson/9781594630996 – refers to everyday “micro-moments of love”.

Thirdly, take some time out after say 30 days, to reflect on your experiences.  Do you believe by bringing more mindfulness, curiosity and love to your conversations and interactions, that you are creating better relationships and greater well-being in your life? Positive relationships are known as the “trump card of well-being” so if there’s one thing you want to do to boost your mood, it would be to continue to have better conversations!

Best wishes, PI & I (Suzy)