conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #4: Define Stuff

with 3 comments

Definition is a dance.

There is a story of a young man and a young woman. They had dated for some time and things were moving along comfortably. Together they decided to move to a new city, where they each took new jobs and explored the area. All while they continued their relationship.

One day, after a weekend lunch together at the young man’s apartment, the young woman said, “Where do you see our relationship going?”


A simple question. Directional. Easy to answer. Innocuous!

But the young man had not tracked along that line of thought.

The question swung like a searchlight through the great, dark, yawning chasm of circumstances and trajectories he had not begun to consider. The question spun like a mad top through his brain, touching area after area that needed direction, uncorking whirling speculation and emotion and fears and opportunity. Yes, where was this going?

“I have to sit down for a moment,” he said.

“I guess that’s my answer,” she said.

Definition can work powerfully in a life. Definition can suddenly show how one person’s thinking is so very, very different from another’s. We often say definition “gets people on the same page,” which is a way of saying we’ve come to an understanding. And that understanding lets us move forward. Or not.

In class our text read “Definitions explain terms or concepts that are specialized and may be unfamiliar to people who don’t have expertise in a particular field.” (Gurak and Lannon, 2010) But the more we talked about it, the more we realized that definition of “definition” did not take into account the powerful leveling ability definition can serve with those who think they already know something—those who feel too familiar with the topic at hand.

Whether in relationships, business meetings, board meetings or a casual encounter in the street, defining what you are talking about is a powerful conversational tool.

Postscript: The young man did eventually begin to define things, area by area. The young woman stuck around. They married and a quarter of a century later they still work together on defining the circumstances and trajectories of life.


Image Credit: Via thisisnthappiness

Written by kirkistan

November 2, 2011 at 9:32 am

3 Responses

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  1. […] There is a story of a young man and a young woman. Click here to read on. […]

  2. […] Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #4: Define Stuff « conversation is …Nov 2, 2011 … Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #4: Define Stuff. with one comment. Definition is a dance. There is a story of a young man and a young woman … […]

    Define stuff | 3shn

    August 30, 2012 at 3:28 am

  3. […] aloud how to have more aha-moments. I speculated that generating more aha’s starts with a dance of definition (DGtC #4) and moves to sitting with the question (DGtC #5). Both the dance and the sitting force […]

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