• Quotations on Conversation
    Are these are the best of times or the worst of times for conversations? Millions of people around the world are participating in conversation cafes, salons, book discussion groups, women's circles, men's clubs, and small groups of every type imaginable — yet many people lament the loss of true presence as we increasingly rely on digital devices to keep in touch with each other. This page provides a reflective nudge and an insightful collection of quotes to help stir our thinking about what creates the best conversations.

You may also find food for thought in the following quotations.


A Contribution to Collective Truth
"Dialogue is not about trying to change anyone’s opinions but is about understanding that people’s opinions, their truths, can actually be a contribution to a collective truth. That is perhaps the fundamental purpose of dialogue — to create a shared understanding beyond our individual points of view."
— C. Zaiss in Skilled Dialogue

A Core Human Capacity
"Conversation is at the heart of the new inquiry. It is perhaps the core human capacity for dealing with the tremendous challenges we face. To engage in great civilization we need to ask questions that matter. We cannot afford to spend our time on issues that can’t hold our attention, that don’t touch our hearts. The culture of conversation is a different culture, one that could make a difference in the future of our world."
— Institute for the Future in The World Cafe

Cultivating Attentive Presence
"Cultivating attentive presence invites us to attune ourselves to the spirit in the depth of our hearts and in others, to speak from this place of presence and to invite others to do the same, and to try to balance our inner and outer awareness as we engage in conversation."
— Diane M. Millis in Conversation – The Sacred Art

An Extension of Intimacy
"Physical contact is the basic source of intimacy, but conversation extends that intimacy to many aspects of life where holding hands is not enough. That's why I think we are entering a new age in the conversation of love."
— Theodore Zeldin in Conversation

Ideally Accompanied by Pauses
"I do not wish to romanticize the porch. Not all of its talk reached the level of Plato or Jefferson, but there was a luster to those talks, a certain glow and depth lacking in these days of e-mail and instant messaging. Perhaps it was the parenthesis of silence, the bracketing of conversation with reflection."
— Philip Gulley in Porch Talk

Key to Bridging Generation Gaps
"Listening moves us closer, it helps us become more whole, more healthy, more holy. Not listening creates fragmentation, and fragmentation always causes more suffering. How many teenagers today, in many lands, state that no one listens to them? They feel ignored and discounted, and in pain they turn to each other to create their own subcultures. I've had two great teachers, Malidoma Some from Burkino Fasso in West Africa and Parker Palmer from the United States, both make this comment: 'You can tell a culture is in trouble when its elders walk across the street to avoid meeting its youth.' It is impossible to create a healthy culture if we refuse to meet, and if we refuse to listen. But if we meet, and when we listen, we reweave the world into wholeness. And holiness."
— Margaret J. Wheatley in Turning to One Another

A Meeting of the Minds
"Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.”
— Theodore Zeldin in Conversation

A Movement to Shared Understanding
"Dialogue explores. Rather than assert the truth of a position, participants ask questions of an issue, consider possible answers, build on one another’s insights, and gradually move closer to a shared understanding—or at least a deeper appreciation of one another’s perspectives. . . .

"Most important for dialogue, we can see what we know — and how much we don’t — by cultivating humility. We can appreciate just how unfathomable the universe, life, and God truly are. From here it becomes clear that the insights and perspectives of others might hold value. Maybe there is value in listening to them after all."
— John Backman in Why Can’t We Talk

An Overflowing of Our Hearts
"What we say is from the overflowing of our hearts. If your speech is full of negative comments about others, then your heart is overflowing with toxic acid. If your speech is tainted with the venom of cynicism and criticism, then your heart is full of poison. If you find your words green with envy and jealousy, even if they are disguised as humor, then you have a crystal clear x-ray of your heart filled with puss. Throughout this day, take frequent mini heart tests, even in the midst of a conversation, as you monitor your speech."
— Edward Hays in The Old Hermit's Almanac

A Path to Discovery and Change
"I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate, or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well. ...

"It takes courage to start a conversation. But if we don't start talking to one another, nothing will change. Conversation is the way we discover how to transform our world, together."
— Margaret J. Wheatley in Turning to One Another

A Profound Action to Expand Consciousness and Connection
"When we talk together, we have a choice between destructive diatribe and constructive dialogue. We can choose life and connection or separation and disintegration. We have the opportunity to choose life, but to do so, conversation is essential. Listening to each other and truly talking together—these are deep, sociospiritual actions. People think talking is not action. That’s not true. Conversation is a profound action that helps us to expand our consciousness and connect together parts and people that are separated. I can’t think of anything else that does that. It is one of our unique human paths to fulfillment and wholeness."
— Juanita Brown with David Isaacs and the World Café Community in The World Cafe

Reliant on Good Listening
"We recognize that we need each other's help to become better listeners. I think that the greatest barrier to good conversation is that we've lost the capacity to listen. We're too busy, too certain, too stressed. We don't have time to listen. We just keep rushing past each other. This is true almost everywhere these days. One gift of conversation is that it helps us become good listeners again."
— Margaret J. Wheatley in Turning to One Another

Welcoming at Its Best
"We live in a world where welcome and gentleness and civility are increasingly rare. Most of the conversation between strangers is terse and quick, and too many times it is cold and rude. It can even be that way, more often then we care to admit, among people who are not strangers. Such is the world we live in that we are almost stunned by hospitality and gentility whenever it breaks out around us. We are drawn to the people and to the places where we find such welcome in abundance."
— Robert Benson in Home By Another Way