Do you climb a wall or cage fight – How to have constructive conversations

One of my favourite ways to multi-task is to listen to podcasts when I’m busy in the kitchen. I spend a lot of time there and find it’s the perfect opportunity to listen in on some interesting conversations. One challenge I find is that many of my go-to podcasts are long – really, really long! It’s not that I don’t appreciate the depth that longer conversations can dive into, it’s just that I rarely have a 2 or 2 1/2-hour block of time to hear the conversation in one sitting. Truth be told, my attention span can also sometimes rival that of my dog Ziggy, and the longer programs can find me drifting off…so I’m increasingly searching out shorter episodes, the Coles Notes version if you will. 🙂

One source of 10- to 15-minute podcasts is Ted Talks Daily. The other day, I happened upon a really interesting talk by Julia Dhar, called “How to have constructive conversations” (March 17, 2021).

Drawing upon her world-class debating skills, Julia encourages us to approach conversations, especially potentially challenging ones, with a spirit of curiosity vs a tendency to clash. I loved her description of a healthy and fruitful conversation being more of a “climbing wall” than a “cage fight”. She encourages progress vs victory.

When faced with an opinion that you are opposed to, she suggests responding with, “I never thought about it that way before…can you share your thoughts to help me understand?” She states that when you’re curious, people are more likely to be curious, too. This approach of curiosity has the potential to not only sharpen your ideas but warm the relationship as well.

Her key points were:

    1. Choose curiosity over clash
    2. Expect development of your ideas through discussion
    3. Anchor in a common purpose.

I couldn’t help but make the parallel between this approach to healthy debate and the approach we take to our movement and yoga practice. I know for sure that, on occasion, I have brought the energy of “cage fight” to my practice when I slide into performative expectations of what I think my body should be able to do. This approach often doesn’t end well.

Conversely, when I bring a spirit of curiosity to my practice, I gain  greater insight, awareness and appreciation, not only for the physical capabilities of my body, but also my mind and spirit, too. I am able to cultivate compassion for what my body is able to do vs frustration at what is beyond reach at the moment. There’s opportunity for warmth and a kinder, gentler relationship with ourselves. From my experience, when we’re kinder with ourselves, it enhances our capacity to extend kindness to others. We all win.

May your actions, thoughts and deeds uplift others.

Warmest regards,