What is a conversation? We all have them, we all enjoy some and avoid others. But what are some of the mechanics of a conversation and what makes it valuable or tedious to us. What can go wrong in a conversation and how can it happen.
The rules of the game are be invited to play again, first and foremost. So this disqualifies many behaviours and topics. With certain topics only becoming acceptable under complex and often unclear parameters. But apart from merely avoiding these faux pas and taboos and being pleasant, what do we really need to have a good conversation?
In Part 1 we first will explore what role agenda may play in a conversation, then discuss rapport being established between people. Then in part 2 we move on to what creates meaning and its reward to one or both parties. We will try to bring a mutual understanding of conversations from these distinctions:
- Agenda style conversation
- Rapport style conversation
- Deeper meaning style
You can perhaps read the above distinctions in other terms such as.
- Depth 1 superficial Agenda: Someones personal interest in themselves and their own views, emotional state, benefit etc
- Depth 2 relationship rapport: Interest in the other person or solidifying the bond between people.
- Depth 3 exploration and consolidation: Peoples mutual interest in the external or abstract, something outside of each other.
Agenda style conversation
Now this is not to say this type of conversation has no meaning to those who are engaged in it, however as we travel deeper into the stages conversation, we will explore how a conversation takes on a more substantial character.
A agenda style conversation is where one or both parties are focused on their own agenda rather than developing rapport or meaning in any for other than to suit their agenda. A simple example of this would be a waiter at a restaurant. Their primary agendas are or should be:
- Keep their job
- Keep customers satisfied
Now if in the process of fulfilling their agenda they make a customer or co-workers/boss feel like they are harmonious with them, they are pleasant, trustable etc, then all the better long term. But they may not extend this relationship meaning beyond what is necessary to achieve their own agenda. And in conversation rapport building and meaning need not be used any further than will allow them to get on with whatever their other goals may be. This again, does not, mean being rude or unpleasant. Remember the primary goal of the socialisation game is to be asked back to play again. But it means for at least one party there is a wall that will be hit in terms of depth.
Hitting the wall
For various reasons some people that you may be in a conversation with, or circumstances of the conversation, mean that the interaction is finite. It may be the roles that both parties are playing such as customer/patron have a limited depth the can safely travel. However outside of defined roles in an interaction there may be something else more fundamental holding the conversation back. If a persons agenda perhaps extends past their designated role of; friend, colleague, employee etc, and they have more personal agendas that they are pulled towards and take precedence over all other levels of conversation in their mind. Examples of this are:
- Manipulation, they want you to want to do something for them.
- Validation, they want you or even worse any interchangeable person to validate them
- Gratification, using the conversation and the interaction to meet a need that empowers them somehow, eg boasting
Not a deal breaker
Un fortunatly these personal agendas that someonew may bring to a conversation are actually not deal breakers. In fact most likely the peson who lives to fufil these needs is an expert in appealing to you in the right ways. Just think of con men, or the popular girl at school or the politician. Our brains and the complexity they can interperate do not have warning sysyems per say that will give us deep reactions top these areas if the perpetrator fulfils all the cues our more primitive mind requires. We go into deal breaker in more detail below, however in a nutshel, if they tick all the right boxes for our emotional/social areas in our brain, we are not alarmed.
Can this still have meaning?
In short answer, yes. However as we qualify it in terms or rapport and meaning, agenda style conversations are limited. This is because all rapport built in these conversations, has an agenda, it is not essentially pure harmony in as much as it is a means to an end for one party. The conversation may also not have any meaning above a certine point. I will qualify this in terms of, the meaning that was discoverd would in some way be more personal for someone. I belive that when meaning is created with an agenda in mind, it is not meaningful conversation, it was a meaning created with conversation as a tool to do so. We go into this more below in Meaning.
Rapport style conversation
In strict terms it means by definition:
A close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well – Oxford Dictionary
However we use it, and understand Rapport, to mean many other things in our communication and relationships. using the theory in Neuroscience of Embodied Cognition, the brain sees things only as they are useful to us. In a nutshell, that is to say, bamboo to us is something that we perhaps make a chair out of yet to a Panda it is a food source.
Actors of roles
We all have roles and we are all actors in our roles, A woman may be many diffrent things and all under the Frame of Woman. A Lawyer, Wife, Mother, Daughter, and Neighbour just to name a few. So in being the ‘actor’ of these rolls, she has in a sense a ‘duty’ to maintain an expected role if she wishes to remain in a “harmonios relationship”
The Neo cortex is the part of the brain that takes the longest to develop, the reason for this is generally accepted by main stream Neuro Science to be because it is adapting to its environment. This part of the brain associated with calculation, is learning to do’s and don’ts of the culture and environment its developing in. Basically it is learning the mutual beliefs and expectations that the humans around it share, so that you may function or perhaps even dominate in this environment.
On a meta level we all have fundamental ‘role’ we play and mutual beliefs. Here are a few of them
- Money has Value
- Murder is bad
- Humans have rights
- Laws and Courtesy
- Fashion, Culture and Style
- and so many more….
Now all of us have various degrees we will accept someone who diverges from out beliefs in these areas. We recognise a cue, associate that with a pattern then categorise this. If someone is ‘acting’ as per the role we have associated them in our minds, then at very least we are comfortable with them, ant to the extent of the relationships agenda we are harmonios with them.
No what happens if they are acting in a way that we have not classified them as? We become stimulated because now we are using a diffrent part of the brain, we are watching them. No longer are they simply operation in the peramaters of the role that our brain has assigned them, we now must reassess them.
Meeting half way
We like ourselves. We are programed to be harmonious with our likness. Our Tribe. We are attracted to people that fit our vision of ‘normal’ (like us) or fit a vision of what we would like to be. This makes sense biologically as if we met new groups of humans they would immediately be a threat first and for most as they may carry pathogens we had no immunity for, or be out to compete with us for resources. It would only be after some criteria that we would have accepted them as not threats and seen them as either useful or met them half way and buit rapport. Over time cultures, ideas, values would have met ‘half way’ so to speak and deveopled into an almagamation of cultures, traditions and beliefs that appeased both parties and became the new ‘normal’.
Breaker of Deals
One of the most important areas in a conversation is in developing a “theory of mind” of the other party. The primitive areas in our minds quickly run through a checklist the moment we meet somebody attempting to do this. We need to have certine amount or trust and relaxation around people to be able to trade, communicate and enjoy ourselves with them. This is hard wired into all of us and begin classifying someone new as one of four things almost immediately:
- Friend – We co-operate
- Enemy – We compete
- Partner – We procreate
- Neutral – Not of any interest/use/threat
When someone either steps out side of the social norms we belive in we immediately are alerted to them and almost always identify them as ‘enemy’. From a Neuro Science perspective there is no area brand new area in humans, developed for disliking someone who acts unusual, or unpredictable. The brain is a patchwork of ancient systems and connections developed from the most basic organisms. essentially this person now triggers a very primal and powerful AVERSION area in the brain.
We trigger a pathogen, snake/threat area in the brain if their behaviour is:
- Not understood
Developing theory of mind
Now its clear if someone is over stepping boundaries, being insulting or rude in some obvious way we will be put off by them. However there are other ways we can fall out or rapport with someone without any mis intention by either party. If we are speaking to someone and we find that we are unreliably able to pattern recognise, or we are having difficulty putting what they are saying into a category we recognise, we may experience negative feelings if not towards them but around them.
This glitch usuaslly will not show up simple relationships such as a cashire or waiter etc, and may not even become an issue in clearly defined roles such as neighbour or even housemate. But it becomes more apparent when complexities are faced and problems must be negotiated. Some of the causes may be:
This will undoubtedly cause a variance in:
If two people share very different views, beliefs or any area that will create a different world view it can be very difficult to create a ‘theory of mind’ of the other person, and this unfortunately runs a high risk of triggering a deal breaker response. This also however leads us into the area that is most special between people in conversation, the creation of meaning. …more in part 2