Chris Corrigan posts about conversation being sacred. I’ve been thinking about this too lately.

I wonder what it would be like if we conversed with each other as if our speech is a form of grooming akin to the way apes show care for each other with their rituals of touch. I think it’s easy to engage with “battles of ideas” and not notice the impacts that these are actual having on our experience of each other.

Here’s a barmy thought experiment: what if when we disagree with someone, we try to express our thought as is we’re using our words to gently massage their shoulders? Would the words come out differently? Would we maybe decide not to disagree so strongly, or at all?

Update: See my comment below – this isn’t intended as a policy we should all implement, more an experiment to indicate choices…

3 thoughts on “Conversation

  1. Alexander Kjerulf

    I like the idea of conversation as grooming, because it definitely has the function of developing and maintaining relationships and good group dynamics.

    As for stating disagreements gently, I’ve experienced stating it too gently (or carefully) implies an expectation that the disagreement won’t be handled well.

    Maybe it’s better to just say “I disagree, and here’s why…” than to try to break it gently.

  2. Johnnie Moore

    Hi Alex: Yes, I should probably emphasise that I only intended an experiment, as a way to increase our sense of the choices we have. And a firmly stated disagreement is one of the choices too.

    Those apes also do play fighting and that’s a form of grooming too.

  3. Matt Moore

    Well this makes me think of phatic speech.

    That is speech that is more about establishing social ties rather than communicating explicit information.

    So it’s not just about how we agree or disagree but also that in any conversation we need to spend time talking apparent rubbish.

    By eliminating phatic elements, you could probably “re-engineer” your conversation so it was 100% efficient at communicating your key points but in the process render it ineffective.

    Larry Prusak explains some more:


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