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?

One of the Many Things Tennis Can Teach Us

I happen to be a tennis fan. I watch the champions and marvel at how they say similar things, work with the same equipment, play on the same surface, hit a ball with a racket across a net. Yet no two are alike, in what they say, do or how they play.

I marvel at that because, despite each unique variation and the range of styles, they’re all still champions. And perhaps that’s a key to why. They start with knowing themselves, their unique talent, personality, needs, understanding of the world, and build from there. They then take what needs to be done to play tennis & shape it to their various needs & gifts.

There’s no way Roger Federer could be a champion if he played and lived his life like Rafael Nadal and vice versa….let alone Novak Djokovic.  Same is true for Serena Williams.  She’s an entirely different player from her very sister, Venus.

This simple example reminds me of something we value highly at A Better Conversation.  Everyone is different and has to find his or her way to do what she or he wants and can do.  We’re pretty unequivocal about that.

There’s no way you will be able to live by your better angels, in the fullness of your unique human dignity if you try to live the same way another does. The only way is if you embrace your unique, varied ways of doing and making meaning of things, and the range that lives within. The same is true for everyone out there.

What is a warrior?

Here’s a good example of a time I had to “unpack an assumption.”

One of the joys & benefits of A Better Conversation is learning new meanings for words that expand & enhance our previous interpretations.  Particularly for words that might push our buttons or rub us the wrong way.

The word “warrior” was always one of those for me.  But when interviewing a professor of business communication (someone I greatly respected), I learned a new meaning.  A new meaning that changed my life.  Here’s what she said.

“A warrior?  …Being a warrior is a way of standing, a way of positioning yourself in the earth, a way of being rooted.

 It’s that a kind of rootedness in terms of the heartfulness that is important to me – that living in the heart, that kind of rootedness in the heart.

 And from that place you move forward into living. And you move forward with grace.

 And you also move forward with courage – with energy and with strength.”

Now I want to be a warrior.

Thank you Ana.

(Next I’ll tell you how she defines courage!  Read on!)


Another example of “unpacking an assumption.”

After Ana described “warrior” she kept talking and added this:

“I find that sometimes, it takes a tremendous amount of bravery and courage to take a lot into the world.

Particularly when you know that the world may not be receptive to the message you’re bringing or… that in some parts of the worlds that we live, that message might not be able to be heard.”

I had to ask her what she meant by courage.

“Courage? Courage, well….it’s finding the energy to get up and to go out there and to do the work that needs to be done, and to do it.

…knowing that maybe you’re NOT going to feel a lot of support….

…that you’re not going to have a lot of sweet words coming back to you or even feel appreciated, but knowing that you’re called to something

…and trusting that calling.

It’s not out of a blind faith.

It’s much deeper than that.

It comes from a kind of weathering of the soul…

a kind of growth where you’ve been challenged,

and you’ve opened,

and you’ve grown,

and you’re open to continuing growth.”

More gems.  I loved all of this.  But the phrase “weathering of the soul” has particularly stuck with me.  What about you?

Not only did I get new and expansive conceptualizations of words, via my better conversations with Ana (& everyone I interviewed).  I also found new, compelling descriptions of what I wanted to be, how I wanted to live and what I valued in this world.  Because, to use Ana’s words, I’m “open to continuing growth.”

That’s at the heart and soul of A Better Conversation.  Learning how our words can mean so many different things, carry with them different connotations and significance, and being open to hearing those differences.