The Art of the Conversation

Today I spent a bunch of hours talking to one of the best conversationalists I know, Tim Schlitzer.

I am actually really lucky because I know so many people who have taken the dialogue to an art form. Zee Zahava is a  pure master and a virtuoso, as is Anthony David Adams.

Here is what I think it takes to be a world-class conversationalist:

1. Be engaged with the world. If you are not out in the world, doing things, and having new experiences all the time you will have nothing to talk about. But it is not enough to simply have experiences. You must also…

2. Reflect on your experiences.  You can ponder your experiences of course, but I really think it helps if, from time to time, you write down what you learn and how you are personally affected by the people you meet, the places you visit and the experiences you have.  (Most of my favorite conversationalists are also really good writers.)

3. Master the art of listening.  When you listen to someone else with rapt attention, you not only show respect for that person, but you more quickly locate common ground, where you can then begin to interweave your shared interests and create a beautiful new tapestry of ideas and stories.

4. Be funny. In order to be engaging you must be witty, upbeat and charming. No one wants to hear tales of woe and disaster unless you can spin disaster into a great story. Don Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years should be  a primer for all budding conversationalists.

5.Know what a True Dialogue is. A dialogue is not just a matter of taking turns talking. It’s not just me telling you about my vacation, and then I stop talking so you can tell me about your vacation.


There’s no artistry in that. That’s just blabbing and it’s boring. When a dialogue reaches the stage of an art form I can tell you about my vacation and manage to weave you into it. That takes perspicacity, intimate knowledge of the other person, and the ability to to distill the universal essence  of a human experience so that both speaker and listener feel that they have had the same experience.

Lately I have been reading research about how the over-reliance on texting is destroying the art of the conversation. I don’t know anything about that because I simply refuse to  talk —at least for very long, to people who can’t hold a conversation, or who don’t know how to dialogue.

A good conversation involves timing, listening, weaving, and charming storytelling. If you have ever experienced one, you know that it is breath-taking in its effect. And you can’t wait to do it again.

I am lucky. I know some great conversational masters.  I love it when I get to sit down with them and co-create, as I did today, a beautiful tapestry of connection.

Thanks, Tim.

Day 16: What Do You Want?

Everybody’s in this Challenge for something different: flexibility, weight loss, toning, strength, stress-relief or just to prove to themselves that they can  follow through on a personal commitment. In other words: self-discipline.

But I imagine some people don’t even really know what they really want out of this; they’re just doing it.

I finished a book last night that has crawled under my skin and wormed itself  into my brain.  The book is Don Miller’s A Million Miles In A Thousand Steps.

It’s about learning how to make your life better by making your life into a  great story.

This is how Don Miller defines “story:” “A person wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”

What Miller wants us to do is start living our lives with drama and conviction; to start taking risks–not only for ourselves, but for other people.  He wants us to be brave and daring and funny and to not know how it’s all going to turn out, but to move forward anyway, to leap, and trust that the net will appear.

And if the net doesn’t appear? If we fall flat on our faces and break our asses and become the laughingstock of our friends and families?  That’s great too, because we took a risk, and took our lumps and learned for the next time.

And that colossal failure made an even better story.  Maybe not a epic story, (for that we’d have to risk our life for another person) but a story with suspense, drama, and conflict.  It was a life lived, rather than wasted in front of the computer or the TV.

But it all hinges on knowing what you want..

So what do you want?  No, really.  What do you want?–not just for the Yoga Challenge, but for your life?

(I’m asking you, but even more, I am asking myself. )

Don Miller has a blog (big surprise) and on his blog he challenged his readers to come up with “What if” questions and then pick one and do it.  If you think this would be an interesting life experiment, check it out here: