How to Design the Conversation You Want

The things we say to each other fuel our movement through workdays and weekends. We constantly create content that guides our conversations and directs our steps.

Content is how I start talking with customers

Creating content is, at heart, designing the kind of conversation I want to have with my customer. I anticipate my customer’s needs; then, I write a piece that folds in their need with their language and interests. Maybe my product or service is involved, or maybe not. Content sometimes includes selling copy and sometimes doesn’t. Worthwhile content always offers a believable voice with practical information on how to approach or solve a problem. Perhaps next time this potential customer needs this service or has this question, they will come back and enlist my help.

That is the bargain with content on today’s interwebs: tell me something useful, but I’m clicking away the moment you try to sell me something. We write helpful pieces like this for clients all the time, and that content brings them into the larger conversations their potential customers already have.

Content lands us at our best conversations

For years it did not occur to me that what I do for clients, I also do for myself and the organizations I belong to. I create content that opens doors for the kind of conversations I want to have.

You do too.

Over the weekend, I designed a “Conversation Worth Having” (Stavros et al., 2018)[i] for a large group we a part of. This group has formed opposing sides and needs help finding unity. My proposal of a large group dialogue builds on the notion of “Appreciative Inquiry” (Cooperrider, 2008).[ii] Appreciative Inquiry is a discipline that suggests people are more motivated to change if they start with past successes and respond to generative questions that would continue those successes. It’s not that the problem issue is ignored; instead, that problem is flipped to a positive that helps fuel the conversation.

That’s an intentional conversation I want to have with this group.

When you forward an article that impressed you to your friend, you are saying, “Hey buddy, we could talk about this.” That is a beginning of an intentional conversation. Maybe you and your friend then go for a beer, and that article becomes a beginning point for a memorable conversation. The same things happen in a marriage: we bring topics we’ve read or conversations we’ve had to the dinner table, and sometimes those bits of content become milestone conversations.

Content points toward action in the world

We create content when we deliver thoughts and ideas, and reactions, to others. We can entirely dream up the “creating” part, or it can be a sharpening thought added to an observation or article that we share into the orbit of some conversation partner.

Either way, what we say about the world and how we approach the next steps is a shared activity with those around us, and delivering content fuels that activity.


[i] Stavros, J. M., Torres, C., & Cooperrider, D. L. (2018). Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

[ii] Cooperrider D.L., Whitney D., & Stavros JM (2003). Appreciative Inquiry Handbook. Lakeshore Publishers.

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