Sunday, May 3, 2009
Choose the Conversation
Informal learning happens in many ways. Brent Schlenker’s post
Is There No Room For Informal Learning? highlights the variety and usefulness of avenues through conversation. Tony Karrer spoke of ‘conversation learning’ in an earlier post and developed this in his Conversation on Conversations.
A recent discussion with Zoë Westhof on the problems that authors encounter when writing their thoughts made me consider how people might go about voicing their ideas during a face-to-face conversation.
Ideas a priority
For the author of a twitter line or a blog comment, the same conflict of prioritisation of ideas can occur than if it’s a company report that’s being drafted. The author may have several ideas waiting in the mind when the first phrase is unfurled in writing. During this time, a shuffling of ideas in the mind of the author may occur; some of those may dissolve while new ones emerge.
These thoughts may not necessarily be ones that would make any sense to the reader if expressed consecutively. A good writer understands this conflict and goes about the editing process during thinking and on the written script at appropriate times throughout the writing process.
Arena for spoken ideas
But speaking in conversation can be different than all of this. While the author may have to wrestle with an array of thoughts when writing, the conversationalist has also to accommodate the intervening audible ideas of others. In particular, the spoken conversation has the additional and sometimes limiting factor of time and the mandatory aspect of personality.
Any spoken conversation is an arena for the participants' competing thoughts. The personality composition of any conversation is a major controller of the outcome of that exchange, whether it is between reunited friends in the corridor at a conference, a heated discussion between members in a board room, or an audio conference during a radio interview.
Clearly, the personality make-up of any group discussion is a significant outcome-determining factor for that event. The time honoured book I’m OK You’re OK describes ranges of possible personality controlled situations that may occur during conversation.
That capricious window of opportunity to voice an idea during a spoken conversation can often elude the conversationalist and leave the thought unsaid. An important idea may not be heard, let alone thought about by the other participants, and it remains for its owner to wait for another opportunity to put the idea. Similar circumstance may occur in a chat room environment but the window of opportunity is less capricious and is usually always there.
Down to earth digital
For the conversationalist who chooses to chat in a twitter exchange or on a wiki, or who opts for the more leisurely terrain of a blog post, less urgency exists to prioritise thoughts before voicing them. What may be lacking for some in that environment is the rush of adrenaline to push to be heard, to prioritise to a fine arrow-point the words and phrases that are to be voiced and to wait for the opportune moment to thrust the gist forward. The phrase, ‘making a point’ summarises this situation.
For those like me who can summon that urgency at keyboard or txt-pad, the time to do the saying and the personalities of participants do not necessarily present barriers. What’s lacking is the opportunity to speak directly and with style to the faces of chosen conversationalists.