Depth versus aliveness

Is the depth of a conversation defined by content or the experience?

This article is based on an episode from the Open + Curious podcast. To listen, please read more about how to purchase the podcast episodes.

I feel like it only can be deep if it if it was deep for both of us. Like can you have a conversation— I guess anything’s possible. [But,] does it seem realistic to have a conversation where one person thought it was deep? Because I’m saying to myself, yeah, obviously it’s possible. But what happens if both people thought it was deep versus [only] one person thought it was deep?

~ Craig Constantine (4:18)

Craig Constantine and Jesse Danger explore the nature of deep conversations, focusing on the distinction between superficial and meaningful exchanges. Jesse begins by considering what makes a conversation real, emphasizing the unique contributions of each participant and the specific moment. Craig reflects on the term “deep” and questions whether it might sometimes be the wrong word, as some people avoid deep conversations due to discomfort. They both ponder if a deep conversation is characterized by newness or if it can occur without discussing novel topics.

I share experiences with people, I think that people are having the same experience as me. And I’ve come to realize that that’s not the case, I think I can have a deep and profound moment that doesn’t strike the other person as poignantly. I do an exercise with myself, and I’ve done it with my wife, where we write down the moments that struck us most deeply. There are different moments. And you remember, like, oh, yeah, I was there, it’s there. It didn’t strike me. But now, I’m starting to understand that that was really an important moment for you.

~ Jesse Danger (7:02)

They discuss the concept of depth as an emergent feature of a conversation, suggesting that depth arises from a shared experience rather than just content. Craig wonders if a conversation can be considered deep if only one participant feels it is, while Jesse shares his experience of recognizing that people often have different perceptions of the same moment.

They also touch on the idea that profound moments can occur upon revisiting familiar topics, and that the willingness to be known is essential for achieving depth in a conversation. The discussion highlights the importance of co-creation, presence, and the conditions that foster profound exchanges.


The nature of deep conversations — discussed as moving past superficiality and involving unique contributions from each participant.

The difference between superficial and real — explored in terms of what is uniquely shared in a meaningful conversation.

Discomfort in deep conversations — mentioned as a reason some people avoid such exchanges, differentiating between depth and inappropriateness.

Depth as an emergent feature — suggested that depth arises from shared experience rather than merely the content of the conversation.

Newness versus familiarity — debated whether a deep conversation always involves new topics or can occur with familiar subjects.

Shared profundity — questioned whether a conversation can be deep if only one participant perceives it as such.

Different perceptions of the same moment — highlighted through personal experiences, recognizing that not everyone experiences depth in the same way.

Revisiting familiar topics — noted that profound moments can still occur upon revisiting familiar conversations or books.

Willingness to be known — identified as essential for achieving depth in a conversation, implying vulnerability and openness.

Co-creation in conversations — emphasized as an important aspect of achieving depth, with both participants contributing meaningfully.

Presence and awareness — discussed as crucial for recognizing and experiencing the depth of a conversation in the moment.

Conditions for profundity — suggested that certain conditions must be present for a deep conversation to occur, such as openness and receptivity.


(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

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