The Art of Conversation – The Animated Middle

We know our positions. There’s no value in a stand-off. The value of conversation is the generative conversation. 

We have conversations every day. We aren’t very good at them. Too many of our conversations are determined by positions fixed before they begin. If 2017 highlights anything it is the need for richer and more generative conversations. 

I recently saw the phrase ‘the animated middle’. It was used by Poet Ann Lauterbach 

“The crucial job of artists is to find a way to release materials into the animated middle ground between subjects, and so to initiate the difficult but joyful process of human connection.”

When I saw that phrase it resonated deeply with me. The Art of Conversation is finding the animated middle ground and enhancing human connection. Great conversations aren’t always easy. Many are difficult and challenging for all involved. They generate new perspectives, new options and a new relationship between parties as they come to a better understanding and find shared ground in people’s purposes, concerns and circumstances. 

If our conversations aren’t doing this work, then we are just chatting. We are pushing information and positions at each other. Chatting can influence another to change their view but it is their action, not an outcome of co-creation by the two parties to a conversation. The other party to a chat is just as likely to dig in to their position or get the wrong impression. 

Seeing the work in the animated middle ground of Conversation as art also brings to the fore that we are engaged in collaborative co-creation. Something new is generated by the discussion. Nobody escapes from a real conversation with their perspective intact. Like art, some times what arises in that middle ground is difficult and provocative but essential. The more change we want from the conversation the greater the co-creation required. 

Our work and our civil society depends on better conversations. We need to explore the art of Conversation in Ann Lauterbach’s animated middle ground. 

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