We all enter into conversations for a number of different reasons, but our intentions often vary. The intentions we have during the act of conversation are formed around our need to be heard or the need we have to hear another person out. After witnessing the recent mockery of a presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump I thought about this topic. The processes we have to realize even when entering into a conversation are intent→impact→outcome.
- Intent — What it is that you hope to accomplish.
- Impact — How are people affected by your intent (impact)?
- Outcome — How did your actions take effect (result or consequence)?
As a regular conversationalist, due to my line of work, I often find myself in meetings 60–80% of my day on average and I run into two types of people: the conversationalist and the converter. I also have to admit to myself that I can also be in the position of both depending on my intent→impact→outcome. Come with me on this short journey and let’s process my brain together.
The conversationalist is the person who is often in the position of moderating, listening, or leading the conversation. This person’s intent is to listen to what other people have to say in order to understand their way of thinking about a specific or multiple topic. The conversationalist has the intent to engage in dialogue with the person(s) that they are speaking to in order to draw an informed conclusion. This person has a balance between listening and speaking and is willing to make space for other people in morder to hear their perspective. The conversationalist also understands that your perspective can be uninformed, bigoted, ignorant, and dumb as hell and they still are willing to hear you out. A conversationalist understands how to meet people where they are and knows when to leave them there. The conversationalist can be broken down like this:
- Intent — To listen and engage in dialogue to become more informed.
- Impact — Making everyone in the conversation feel heard.
- Outcome — Has the tools necessary to inform their actions.
I think it is extremely important to say that a conversationalist does not have to agree with everything a person is saying. This person might even listen to you just to confirm their own bias and beliefs. A conversationalist doesn’t mean that you have the best intentions. You might be willing to change your perspective for the person(s) you are listening to at the time. This is still very different from a converter.
The Converters only goal is to prove their point! They want you to only listen to them because they believe that only their experience matters and they want you to believe it to. The converter knows what everybody else needs and it is based on what they know, their reality. The converter can easily ascend/descend into the realm of narcissism and egoism. This person believes they are the foundation of morality.
On the opposite side of the previous statement a converter can also be a subject matter expert who has done a large amount of research and experience and uses this to inform their thoughts and decisions making. Similar to the process of the conversationalist they engage in the processes of intent →impact→outcome.
- Intent — To have everyone listen to them and doesn’t care what other people have to say
- Impact — People are offended and or highly convinced by this person’s statements
- Outcome — One dimensional thinking, narrow mindedness on a particular topic (s)
Now many of you will think that you fall into the space of conversationalists. Here’s the kicker, at any point and time we can be one or the other depending on the position we are put into and who is in our proximity. For example, if you are a social justice warrior you might absolutely believe in a different morality than a bigot. You believe in your heart that you are fighting for the right cause, and you might be absolutely right, in your eyes. As a bigot, you believe in your heart that you are fighting for the right cause, and you might be absolutely right, in your eyes. Do you see what I just did in the last two sentences?
Is the conversationalist better than the converter or vice versa? The thing as humanity we have to remember is HARM. Who is being harmed by either position and why, as unorthodox as it sounds, both have the potential to do good or do harm depending on the recipient’s positionality. As a person from a marginalized identity, I understand that converters are often people with privilege who are unwilling to understand or change even if they are wrong, and that is the problem.
The conversationalist allows the space for change and understanding. The converter does not care and never admits or even believes that they could be and are often wrong! This is why we all have to vote.