Let's Talk

Let’s Talk

Why A Better Conversation?

I believe there’s a deep yearning for A Better Conversation – one that transcends the framework of either/or, I’m right, you’re wrong, of this way, not that. One that helps us get beyond anger and hostility, mockery and contempt, self-righteousness and “I told you so.”  One that helps you feel you’re moving, growing and being generative.

There are many people looking for conversations that help them make meaning of their lives in ways that feel productive, cooperative, and provides peace and equanimity. Conversations that foster the patience to tolerate difference and dissonance, the dignity of respecting one’s self and the other, and the deep joy that comes from a heightened sense of being alive.

Many people are looking for ways to discuss topics that enlighten and stretch, that help them understand challenges and conflicts in ways that lead to new ideas, and agree or disagree in a way that opens doors, helps them live peacefully or at least tolerantly – if not comfortably – with their neighbors.

With globalization, with communication across cultures, ages, languages, religions, ethnicities, we face new and complex challenges to our understanding of our world instantaneously, 24/7, 365.

I think people are looking for a way to have a conversation that makes room and welcomes this diversity, this connection, these challenges, and helps us live together more peacefully, respectfully, and lovingly.

I created A Better Conversation to help make this happen.  Please join me!


ABC in a Nutshell

“Do everything you can to not make a assumptions.  Be mindful of the assumptions you do have, and of your external and internal responses when they are challenged.  As often as possible, whenever possible, start by asking the person with whom you are talking, the question “what does this mean to you?” and be genuinely interested in the answer.  Being genuinely interested is essential.  So is genuinely valuing that person’s experience for its own sake.

Cut & place everywhere.

What Makes It “Better?”

I believe in the inalienable right of each person to speak and be heard, in a way that respects the dignity of the speaker and others – the listeners.

At A Better Conversation, we learn how to speak and share our selves and our ideas in a way that is respectful of our audience.

I have faith in this process, have fostered it and have seen it work.

Unpacking Assumptions

We all bring assumptions to what we do and see.  All the time.

A Better Conversation works with a variety of materials to help you “unpack your assumptions.”  That is, we help you figure out what your assumptions are, that heretofore you have taken as truth.  Or help see that you may be unwittingly assuming everyone makes meaning of a word/concept in the same way.  Or that a response means only one thing.  Or that a person may be doing something for different reasons than you assume.

When we “surface an assumption” we can see how we “mis”-understand what others are saying, doing, or expecting of us.  Then we can see how all this makes us feel, what this leads us to think, and what we do in response to those feelings & thoughts.

For a great example check out Trust Your Gut. I assumed my friend’s expression was one of boredom, when it wasn’t.

Here’s another example. Once, I was hired for a position because my work focused on teaching critical thinking.

Not long after starting my job, I was asked by someone why I was giving critical thinking exercises to a certain group of students.

I said, “That’s why I got hired.”

Respondent, “We didn’t mean those students. They can’t think critically.” (I’ll speak to how disgusting that comment is, later.)

Me, “Huh?!!! Of course they can.” (And yes, I proceeded to teach “those students” critical thinking skills – much to everyone’s delight!).

Exercise: So, let’s start right here. What assumptions did you bring to this post, or any of the others? Or even when you heard the name of our organization is called A Better Conversation?

Even if your answer is “I don’t know.” That’s a good place to start.

Just see if you can recall any assumptions you had and how or if those assumptions influenced what you read & expected.

What helps you learn?

What influences a person’s learning, at his or her deepest levels? What shapes it, nurtures it, instructs it, inhibits or blocks it, or enriches it? I’ve spent my professional career and personal life exploring these questions. A Better Conversation is the next step to pursuing this passion.

I love chocolate cake, sunshine, clothes, the Dave Matthews Band, traveling, reading, watching tennis, and philosophy. All these things – and many more – help me learn and be the person who does her utmost to foster A Better Conversation.

But I have to give a special shout out to dogs. All my life, they’ve helped me the most.

This is Buddy.


Before Buddy there was Woody and Gracie….

I love dogs as much as I love to learn. I love dogs because they help me learn, listen and pay attention.  They help me over the hurdles, get unstuck and provide the light.

What are these things for you? What are the things that help you learn & find light?

Know Thyself

A Better Conversation works best when we start with knowing yourself.

Think Socrates. Socrates believed we all have insight that leads to knowledge that leads to happiness.

Insight is learning about ourselves, what matters to us and why. Insight is naming what values we care most about, those we treasure, will go to bat for no matter what. Insight is understanding how we define and make meaning of these values, and how we want to practice and live by them.

A Better Conversation works by discerning what these are for each of us.

Socrates called this the examined life. The one worth living.

Pick something that matters to you, that might seem playful, but important.  Start with something fun.

For example, many people love dogs. They love them because dogs provide unconditional companionship. They wag their tails when they see people, especially their owners, and we interpret their wagging tails as a sign they’re happy and happy to see us. Our heart melts. We feel pure joy. We smile. They wag their tails harder. We feel happy and good and loved. We feel better about ourselves and we find we’re in a better mood, and more patient and more disposed towards being kind and helpful to others.

All because a dog wagged his tail. Go figure. But there it is.

Exercise: Pick a value….

Start describing it.

Tell us what it means to you.

Why it’s so important.

Where did that value come from…?

Go from there. See where it leads.

Genuinely Listening

Exercise: Here’s a fun way to practice the “art” of genuinely listening, without adding your own thoughts or impressions on the matter.

Ask a good friend, your son or daughter, your partner…anyone who likes to learn something new…why they like something they really like, but you don’t.

Start with something easy.  Like why she likes Star Wars or why he likes electronic dance music. Or why your mother prefers Miracle Whip, or how your best friend can spend so much time on Facebook.

Just listen. Only listen.

Notice what comes up for you while you listen. Do you want to disagree with them? Dismiss it? Learn even more?  Feel any delight as you listen? What happens between the two of you as you engage in this exchange?

Ask someone to do the same for you.

Try it on a few different topics.  Have some fun!

Know Thyself – Advanced

This exercise is a complement to Know Thyself.

Choose a value that’s really important to you.  Something you’d go to bat for. Something you feel is the foundation of how you want to live. Now explore where your thoughts & understanding of that value come from.  Why is it so important to you?

Next step.  Notice how you feel if someone tries to tell you it’s not that important.  What comes up for you?  Be sure to notice and name all the things.  How do you want to respond?

Let yourself feel and claim all that.  You’re learning about you.  You’re getting that “knowledge” to which Socrates is referring.

What Are You Capable Of?

Over the course of my professional career, I’ve had wonderful conversations with colleagues who have shared “profound” and eloquent insights.

One such person is Paul Perkinson, currently Head of The Hudson School in New Jersey.  In an interview he did for me years ago, he shared how he regards the students and staff at his school, and why he does what he does:

“I think each person is capable of profound beauty, profound brilliance, profound gratitude, profound giving, and most important, profound loving. And a meaningful life is nurturing that in other people, bringing that out in other people, giving them language so that they can better understand themselves.”

I love that.