“Well, this is a conversation we certainly need to have sometime.” 

It's a phrase I’ve heard all too often from folks who would rather talk to me when I didn’t sound so correct. I’ve edited publications about communications, including one with “conversations” in the title.

We have a lot of chatter on the web, and certain pockets where there’s certainly a surplus of comments. We talk a lot about “social media” and “social business,” especially in this publication, but we haven’t had much of a talk … about talk itself.

Communication Breakdown

As a society, we are losing the memory of how to communicate with one another. Meanwhile, while we’re postponing the uncomfortable, we sustain the mundane.

We talk about the needs for national conversations on things, but what is that, really? Google Hangouts has enough trouble with four simultaneous participants, let alone four billion.

Climate change. The world needs to transition to a power system that does not damage the world in turn. But this is a situation where either talking about the topic or not talking about it doesn’t do anything to change it.

Personally identifiable data. I’m in San Francisco this week for the RSA Conference, where the conversation about whether the US should invoke an irrefutable national identity system has been proceeding each year, without any serious resolution. We’re not quite done yet with the conversation about privacy.

Race. Chris Rock’s performance as host of an Academy Awards presentation where no African-Americans were nominated was reviewed the following morning as either having brought “the conversation about race” into people’s living rooms or missed an opportunity to advance the same conversation. Here’s a conversation starter: Are we ready as a people to provide a substantive definition of the term with which everyone can agree?

Intelligence technology. In the wake of revelations from Edward Snowden, it was suggested that we should have a national conversation (again, there’s that concept) about the limitation of government intelligence’s rights to personal information.  Can we say we’re informed enough as a people to competently discuss the topic of information that may be withheld from us?

In the past, television occasionally made an effort to at least stage rational conversations on important topics, such as war. But most modern television is an effort to decimate one’s attention span while simultaneously scrambling to maintain it.

A national conversation may be hard enough, but do we actually have the wherewithal as employees and members of our communities to convene the conversations we perpetually postpone past the end of time? Maybe you have a story to tell about a real conversation you’ve had, that’s worked. Let's talk.

Title image A Bowl of Salad by Anushruti RK