Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Boundaries of Conversational Space

Every conversation is bounded by the time it consumes and the spaces it occupies.  Such spaces vary in nature, and may include:

  • physical (where does it happen?)
  • conceptual (negative space, perspective, play, music, light, recontextualization, cognitive flexibility theory, social networking, etc.)
  • psychological (defense mechanisms, barriers, conflict, personality types, alignment of the self--projected v. core characteristics)
  • emotional (thoughts, needs, emotions, losses, feelings)
  • spiritual (faith, ways of knowing, eternity, the composition of a soul)
  • social (personality and dynamics of surrounding people) 
In complex conversations, the conversation may take place in and across multiple spaces in layered ways that add dimension to the conversation.  The substance of a conversation arises from the depth and breadth of its content; its shape, from the synergy generated by its participants. 

Most conversations are self-sustaining entities. When they conclude, the mind normally pushes them aside, like lemon rinds from which sufficient juice has been extracted to meet the demands of the recipe. This is not to say that the participants never return to them. They do, just as every once in awhile a chef returns to the discarded lemon rinds for a bit of lemon zest or one more teaspoon of juice. However, for all intents and purposes, their immediate usefulness is, for the most part, limited.

So, how is one to determine the true worth of a conversation to another individual (and, by implication, the relationship that provides the context for it)? 

Possible measures might include:

  • the number of times it resurfaces in future conversations
  • the manner and frequency with which its content is shared (or not shared) with others
  • the number of times that it reappears--recast in new contexts
  • the quantity of "lingering issues" it leaves behind which continue to re-emerge in new conversations (Note: With issues defined not as problems, but as thoughts or opportunities for further discussion.)

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