Conversation as a Methodology for Human Flourishing, Belonging, and Understanding

Despite the subtle differences, the terms conversation and dialogue are frequently used interchangeably. Conversation is an informal exchange of ideas, thoughts, and opinions between two or more people; it occurs in a range of settings from formal to informal, without a specific goal or objective. Conversation is a ‘model, method, end and means’ (Pattison 2020, 88) of communication. On the other hand, dialogue refers to a more structured and intentional exchange of ideas and opinions between two or more participants with the aim of achieving a specific outcome; it is often more formal and structured. The aim of this paper is to draw attention to the delicate differences between dialogue and conversation and make a case for the use of the less formal methods of conversation in exchanges where human flourishing, belonging, and understanding are sought. This article is in three parts. First, the difference between dialogue and conversations is explored. Second, I introduce Appreciative Inquiry (AI) (Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987) and its development for use in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) conversations through The Lotus Model Process (Teller 2021, 404) with the seven types of conversation. Third, I present a report on a workshop where DEI topics of cultivating belonging and inclusion were explored by an international organisation. Finally, practice recommendations are made for using conversation as a methodological approach with the aim of creating spaces that enable belonging and understanding to emerge at an individual, team, and organisational level.

Saiyyidah Zaidi

Saiyyidah Zaidi is a pioneering and bridge building independent practitioner-researcher and leadership coach investigating the intersection of race, gender, and religion using conversation as a methodology.