Creating conversation together

When you’re in a job interview, a podcast interview, a sales call, a meeting… if we take the approach that this is a test and there’s a right answer, we’re not actually engaging and moving things forward.

~ Seth Godin, from

In a conversation, if a guest slips into this-is-a-test mode, things get awkward. If I ask, “what’s something people get wrong about you,” the guest will think I’m looking for dirt, and that I want something they’d not want to share. Or worse, they wonder if I already know something, and suspect I want to drag that skeleton from their closet.

But the sort of conversations I’m interested in creating are ones where those involved are working together to create something interesting and respectful of the subject. So it’s important to create the environment where the guest naturally treats questions as prompts. It turns out that this is easy to do: Listen with the intention of understanding.

If I honestly want that good sort of conversation, then my behavior flows naturally from my curiosity. My behavior and my honest curiosity create the environment which is necessary for the guest and I to co-create the conversation.

I share things about myself, and in so doing I invite the other person to share. I take things seriously, conveying that I value their time, our interaction, and what I’m hearing. I express my interest directly by asking interesting questions–questions which show the other person I’m generally curious. Overall, I demonstrate that I’m listening because I’m interested rather than because I want to do something with what I’m about to hear.

I’m listening to understand, not listening to respond nor refute.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *