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Different kinds of conversation

May 22nd, 2004 · 1 Comment

Thanks to Bob V’s comments, I’ve been thinking through the day today about what I posted last night. Sometimes I need to re-examine what I wrote. Taking another look is always good (in the morning light!) and I’m grateful to those who hold up the mirror to me in dialoguing!

Another way to look at both the stroller and jeans issues is to see them as different kinds of conversations. Ted wrote an essay this week about Us versus Them. Us versus Them happens when community and conversation are not in common.

Fashion to me feels Us versus Them. I feel I am at the mercy of whatever stores want to sell. What I want doesn’t matter. “The look” is what counts.

But this article about Ella Gunderson and her letter reveals that conversation can occur. The girl was the one who initiated. Perhaps it would be better if the store somehow started or invited the dialogue directly.

I believe conversation is crucial in every relationship of life, including the business of buying jeans. It is true that there are other options such as chinos or skirts. But leaving the store with a pair of chinos, when what you wanted was a pair of jeans, is not best for the customer and ultimately not best for the company either.

Being willing to participate in dialogue, to take another look at what their clerks were saying and what their stores were offering, shows that Nordstrom’s wants to have conversation. They were willing to admit they had made a mistake and that they wanted to change. I like that too. Dialogue destroys the Us versus Them gulf.

The article about strollers also reveals the possibility for dialogue. A dialogue between cultures across continents. Reading what Africans think about strollers caused me to reconsider how I see them. It lead me to wonder whether what we think may be an improvement or a help is always that way. Another perspective can help illuminate the reality I am living or show me something I hadn’t realized.

Hearing another culture’s perspective is someone holding up the mirror to me in a new way. Or to use Jeff Sandquist’s example, it is like someone coming and examining my fence, showing me where I’m missing paint and boards. It challenges what I believe, and lets me examine what I thought was true. It helps me learn from mistakes and grow. It shows me how I can listen and love better. I need to hear it. I want to know!

Conversation doesn’t mean we have to agree all the time about everything. Conversation doesn’t mean I implement (or perhaps even accept) everything someone else says.
Conversation doesn’t mean a person, company or culture has to do what I tell them to do.

What I think conversation means is that I consider what is said to me. I listen. I think about it a few times. I turn it over in my mind and examine the facets of it, as a jeweler examines a jewel. I wonder what it means. I’m willing to let what is said change me and the way I live. I respect what is said and who is saying it. I take it seriously. I pay the price to invest time and energy. For it to be a two-way conversation, this has to be true on both sides.

There isn’t a recipe for relationship and I can’t completely define what conversation is and isn’t. But I think that it’s something that can be sensed inside, in the soul: I know it when it happens and the other person does too. Conversation takes place on an individual level. Sometimes learning to communicate takes time and practice. It requires making mistakes and living humility. Yet the community and conversation are worth the price paid.

We need to dialogue across cultures. We need to have these conversations to cross the barriers. Whether that is bridging the gulf between pre-teen jean customer and Nordstrom’s executive, or between people separated by oceans and continents, languages and history, on different sides of the world. Between the two people on either side of this wall where I sit. Or between two individuals reading this weblog. 🙂

Tags: blog

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // May 23, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    I like conversing with you. You’re a fun conversation participant. Your openness and thoughtfulness and gentleness (and conviction) sets a good example for the rest of us. Keep it up!