“Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards… It’s like a spark that two minds create.” – Theodore Zeldin, Oxford Scholar

This page intends to illustrate the power of conversation approached through the prioritization of listening. Channeling our efforts in conversation (and conflict) through the principles of Better Listening elevates our conversations in compassion, understanding, and wonder.

Western society likes to frame the art of conversation as the art of expression:

  • How do you best get your point across?
  • How can you persuade the most people?
  • How can you get people to completely understand you?

But conversation isn’t merely two eloquent orators babbling at each other- it is an active exchange!

Framing conversation primarily in terms of how to speak is based on the agenda of changing the world around you (which may be based on the unconscious assumption that it isn’t good enough or “right” as it is).

Listening is inextricable from conversation, a specific kind of communication.

Conversation is the active engagement of two or more people exchanging ideas and information.

At its best, conversation is a cooperative act and at its worst conversation becomes a battle of wills. If at any point one party is trying to control or change the other, they are no longer effectively listening and the conversation becomes less cooperative and can even decline into conflict!

Conversation has the potential to be truly transformational if we engage in it with our honed Better Listening skills of presence, curiosity, and sincerity. It can be even more powerful when multiple parties involved are able to utilize Better Listening.

If we enter conversations vulnerably on the premise of taking the risk to learn and grow, we can be transformed through them. 

While we can work diligently on how we receive information through our listening skills, that is only a single dimension amongst the full spectrum and depth of listening. Engaging and Acting allow us to access new depth.

The Noticing and Being of curiosity and sincerity guide our actions. How we engage in conversation and how we actively respond to people is the Doing of Listening.

Sincerity Being sincere means being true to our authentic selves while being vulnerable about it with others at the same time. In Better Listening we combine this with compassion and openness.
Curiosity Curiosity is a mix of awareness of self, other, and situation combined with openness and genuine interest.
Awareness Awareness in Better Listening is intentionally noticing what is coming up for yourself, what is occurring with the other person, and the influences in the environment.
Regulate Regulation is empowered by our self awareness and our willingness to engage with discomfort. We must actively choose to regulate, ie, “do it.”
Engaging Engaging in listening is a matter of consciously choosing to listen and collaborate with our conversation partner(s).
Responding Responding is actively participating in the conversation- it includes revealing information, asking questions, reflecting back what we hear, etc.
Integrity Integrity occurs in Better Listening when our actions (“doing”) are aligned with our best intentions and honest feelings and beliefs.

On this and the following few pages, you’ll discover a guide to the basics (with links to additional resources on our Practice & Exercises page) of how to engage in Elevated Conversation by exercising the principles of Better Listening (the Empathic and Deep Listening Styles). You can also learn about how to apply these principles and more in our section on Navigating Conflict.

A Model for Elevated Conversation

***You can read on and follow through the pages on each part of the model using the ‘Next Up’ buttons, or you can get to those pages here:

So, if conversation is the active engagement of two or more people exchanging ideas and information, what defines Elevated Conversation? Elevated Conversations are characterized by the depth fostered through prioritizing the principles of Better Listening: presence, curiosity, and sincerity. The practice of these principles inspires a more conscious and intentional way of engaging with others, naturally resulting in conversations enriched by compassion and understanding.

Take a moment to pour over this model.

Lots of arrows, huh?

This is a map of a conversation from top to bottom, beginning with Intention and ending with… well, it doesn’t have a specific ending point! Conversation is not a linear phenomenon. A and B are not always followed by C. Rather, perhaps B follows A but C is happening simultaneously and looping back to A.

The model seeks to map out this dynamic nature of Elevated Conversation. There are many things happening at once that often loop back through the various stages: The Foundation Stage, the Intrapersonal Stage, and the Interpersonal Stage.

For example, in the Intrapersonal Stage you may be absorbing, interpreting, and empathizing all at once! Perhaps you then move to the Interpersonal stage and respond, and then return to the Intrapersonal Stage and regulate. The path of a conversation could look as erratic as the photo below.

Wondering where Better Listening comes in? The Foundation Stage and Intrapersonal Stage constitute the practices of Better Listening! After those first two parts, the Interpersonal Stage is what really defines Elevated Conversation. 

If this all seems confusing to you at this point, don’t worry! We’ll walk you through all the steps in the process and provide examples and tools to aid your comprehension and practice!

Each of the three portions of the model will be broken down in their own page, so continue on to see the breakdown.

There are also a couple of pages (also found in the Next Up progression) that you can check out already if you want:

Listening Listening: The Gist Factors in Listening Styles and Levels of Listening Listening Challenges 1: the Dinner Guests Listening Challenges 2 Better Listening Elevated Conversation Hearing and Understanding Listening Practice and Exercises Listening Inspiration and Resources