Conversations Count

Can a conversation make a difference? Well sometimes a conversation can change the direction of your life. My father, a mechanical engineer, often related a conversation he had when he started college in 1935. His first advisor cautioned him against engineering because he said there were no jobs for Jews in the engineering field. My father told him (politely) not to worry about his employment prospects but to just sign his forms so he could take the classes. My father always found employment and spent 50 years as a practicing engineer.

Conversations make a differ-ence.

When I was 14 this same engineer father took me aside before I went away to a folk festival. He gave me the short version of the birds and bees talk. He left the details to my mother but hit the high points himself. He told me that any girl I slept with I might have to live with for the rest of my life. Well, for 10 years whenever I was with a girl I made damn sure I didn't fall asleep. So personal conversations we have with people can be powerful.

Public conversations can also be powerful. Just think of the power of the speaking of a Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed or Moses. These men's words continue to change the world thousands of years later. More recently Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Mao said much to change people's lives. There are hundreds of people from every country in the world who have spoken in a way that makes a difference.

But what about us little people? Clearly no one I know qualifies as a Buddha or a Lincoln. As a teacher I often wonder if anything I say makes a difference with the businesses I work for. I like to think I make a difference. Many of the people who attend my training classes hope to go back to their employers and say something that will turn their situation around. So if conversations are important, and we want to make a difference in our organizations, how can we speak to make a difference?

To look at this we have to look into how people who do make a difference speak. These people speak in such a way that the listeners see something for themselves in the words. The listeners listen and see a glimpse of a better world or a glimpse of how to get something that they want. In some cases their speaking elevates or inspires us in others it appeals to our self interest. In all cases great people speak and we see something for ourselves...

To be continued.