What is a meaningful conversation?
This exercise is a study of this question, a simple score in trios. Persons A and B attempt to have an interesting or meaningful conversation in 5 minutes. C discretely observes A and B trying to have a meaningful converstaion. ‘Meaningful’ is completely up for personal interpretation.
After 5 minutes, the three discuss together how it went, discuss what “meaning” might mean in this context, as well as alternative strategies that could have been used at different points in the conversations to pursue, create, or make room for meaning to arise. Roles are then rotated after 5 minutes of this conversation, and this is repeated two more times, so each person has two chances to talk and one chance to observe from the outside.
Meaning can come in amany forms or in different modes. It might have to do with the explicit subject of the conversation, but it might also have to do with the simple experience of conviviality. There are many objectives of a conversation, and not all of them are explicit or have to do with semantic content. Perhaps we are looking for insight ourselve. Perhaps we are looking to facilitate insight of our conversational partner. ‘Maybe just having a good time is objective in and of itself.
How do we track or map out the direction of a conversation while having it? Can we remember the varous forks a converstaion takes so that we can double back and explore other possible forks, rather than simply getting trapped in the emotional charge of forward motion of the conversation? Is it better to meander organically, be direct, use shifting strategies? Is it better to explicitly track and label for ourselves what we are doing during a converstaion so that we can be more aware and deliberate with statement and question, or is it better sometimes to just relax and be intuitive and impulsive? How do listening, reporting, provoking, questioning relate to a flow of conversation and meaning… exposing our own thoughts and feelings vs coaxing out or giving space for those of our conversational partner? On what levels can we experience meaning… intellectual, emotional, …?
A variant is to try this exercise in 4s with a trio conversation being practuiced and observed.
Another follow-up variant (the Dinner Party variant) would be to have a large group of people mingling, conversing, observing, starting, joining, and ending converations, practicing tracking conversations, and going back and forth between being absorbed by the converstaions and having meta-conversations about the act of conversing.