- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Talk a lot, meet a lot, converse little. Time to call Socrates back

Semi connected reflections:

[1] We talk a lot, email a lot, reply a lot, post a lot, say ‘I agree with you Peter’ a lot. I am not sure all of that is real conversation where people listen and talk, at least in equal measure.  MIT Professor Sherry Turkle’s 2016 book ‘Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age’ is a reminder of our era.

[2] In its Latin origins, conversation meant art of living or place of dwelling; also keep company with, live among, be familiar with. All before it became discussion or exchange. So, interestingly, it has those origins of intimacy and closeness.

[3] We complain a lot about too many meetings (I do) but perhaps we would complain less if we could extract real meaning of all of them. When we lose purpose, we get busy-ness. Getting booked on Outlook until next summer is actually not that difficult . Whether by that summer we would be better off, better professionals, better human beings, it’s not clear.

[4] In the old days ( and to some extent still today) in my home country, Spain, and other places of Spanish influence, we used to  have something called ‘tertulia’. It was a scheduled but informal gathering of people discussing art, politics, or current affairs, probably over coffee, probably in the afternoon, probably in a bar, probably in a place called ‘casino’ (nothing to do with the other casinos).  It was a place and space to listen and talk, to debate, as Emperor Tertulius would have inspired. Tertulia and ‘have a tertulia’ became a sort of recognized art for a protected  space.

[5] In our business organizations we have always struggled to find the right dose and format for those ‘conversations’. We often have tedious recycling of information by people around a table. We complain about waste but people often struggle to find meaningful alternatives. We really need to install the Socratic method [1] in our business/organization conversations. A way to elicit arguments, spot contradictions, use critical thinking. One of the key investments for leaders should be learning and supporting critical thinking in the form of ‘the art of asking questions’.

[6] Socrates did not write anything. Wrting was for him a straitjacket for ‘the living, breathing discourse of the man who knows’ (so let Plato write that to us)