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  • Writer's pictureHava Horowitz

The 3 Levels of Authentic Conversation

Recently, I taught an Authentic Relating workshop at It Takes A Village Festival.


There, people learned skills to build resilient and ecological communities of the future. They participated in workshops on everything from building structures out of Hempcrete, plant identification and foraging, and Permaculture 101.


At the gathering, something important was arriving to me…


Before Hempcrete, before concrete, before blueprints, before the Pyramids… all great societies, innovations, and ideas start with a seed of conversation. Good conversation has been the backbone of immense creation.

On the other hand, bad conversation (misunderstanding, dishonesty) has led to unimaginable human calamity. War. Scientific failure. The Cuban Missile Crisis. Chernobyl.


Conversation, indeed, is the original power tool.

While we communicate and converse nearly all-the-ding-dong-day, we almost never intentionally practice this most important skill.


We can think about conversation in three levels:


  1. Informational - Talking about objective fact

  2. ie. "Yesterday, I wrote this email."

  3. Personal - Talking about how you feel about people/events/experiences outside of the present moment

  4. ie. "When I wrote this email yesterday, I noticed how much I value storytelling as a way to connect with strangers."

  5. Relational - Talking and listening in reference to how the present moment and people you’re interacting with impact you

  6. ie. "Reading this email next to you, I notice I’m squeezing my hands together to relieve some tension. I don't want to admit that I hope you think I'm smart. "

Most of the time, we stay focused on the top two levels. It’s safer there.

However, that last level - the relational level - is the space where real intimacy and connection thrives. It’s the level where we make what is hidden, revealed. We give our sub-conscious fears, core beliefs, desires, hopes, dreams a space to thrive.


I've fallen curious thinking about this level and the past. How does this third level of conversation - the relational level - factor into both modern and ancient great human achievements?


Consider the iPhone's development - how might the team have navigated heated debates or complex design choices? Perhaps it involved conversations not just about facts, but about relational-level observations about team members. “While I wasn’t sure at first glance, I see the spark in your eyes. I feel inspired to give your design another look."


Or, what about Machu Picchu. Before placing a single stone, people likely sat together, discussing how each and every decision would impact their community. "As we plan this city, I notice a sense of fear about our mountainous location. Let's address this together."

Relational-level conversations pushes beyond facts and focuses on what is emergent amongst one another. This type of authentic connection is pivotal to innovative problem-solving and strong team-building. They foster empathy, active listening, and breed synergistic creativity.

So, this week, I challenge you: explore the potential of relational communication. Try taking a risk and revealing your present experience. Share your physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, or observations that come up about one another during conversation. Who knows what potential this level three conversation may unlock.

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