TED Conversations

Linda Hesthag  Ellwein

Communications, Change, and Photography, Oikonomia, Inc.


This conversation is closed.

What makes a good conversation? What draws you in and engages you? Let's build TED-capacity by sharing what we're learning with each other.

Conversations are subjective. Some pull us in, others glaze us over. Truth is, they are are important to our lives. A conversation might be a footing to the foundation of a life-changing relationship, or leads us on a turn that changes our course. In order to strengthen our own conversation skills, and encourage others, can we discuss what works - and doesn't? What engages you enough to comment, or continue in the dialogue? What tips would you give others to help them be better conversationalists? What mistakes have you made? When do you get the most from a conversation?

It's often been said 'it's not what you say, but how you say it," how does this translate to online conversations for you? How can we make it easier for non-English speaking members?

Joining a TED conversation can sometimes be intimidating. For some, it takes courage and vulnerability. What can you say to encourage those sitting on the sidelines? Or to those who don't think they have the right thing to say? Do you read conversations but never comment? Why not? Has your world view ever changed, or paradigm shifted?

How about building TED-capacity by offering what you know, what you've learned, even what you struggle with to raise the bar for conversations and to be inclusive to those thinking about jumping in?

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    Nov 4 2011: Hi Linda !
    I've only been on here a few days, decided to dive in, and then I found myself swimming back to shore - something about being in unknown waters. So playing it safe, I decided to study some of the communication patterns that occur here. I had often heard of chat-rooms (I assume that's what this is ?!) and I decided to take a look around. It was such a strange experience: to feel like I was eaves dropping on various conversations, and peeking into peoples lives in this manner. I did, however, enjoy it - such a diversity of characters, and a wealth of conversation. I believe I am going to hang around for awhile, just to see how this experience unfolds.
    The only tip I have to offer at this point, is to always consider to whom you are speaking. Its not hard to get a sense of where a person is coming from, if you take the time to look at their profile, and a few of their conversations. Because there is no body language to assess, and very few contextual cues, I decided to take more time to consider my input. Just like in ordinary life... buttons can get pushed ...people can get their backs up, become aggressive, or run for the hills. Need I mention the sometimes blinding need that human beings have to feel RIGHT about what we say, and how we present it ? At the risk of becoming a hypocite... and believe me - it wouldn't be the first time...I intend to follow the old adage : to say what I mean... and mean what I say.
    If I can get a sense of who the Other is, there is a much better chance of establishing what Martin Buber called an I -Thou relationship. I have already witnessed the deep sensitivity that some participants display in their conversation, as well as the other extreme.
    And, by the way, thank you for your role as a Host. I see how you make us feel welcome, and how you tactfully interject when hostilities are brewing. Its very refreshing Linda, because where I come from we ask: “ Is this a private fight... or can anyone join in ?"

    All the best!
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      Nov 4 2011: Welcome Denis! I found myself laughing as I visualized you 'swimming back to shore!' I've been there myself. I'm a very outgoing person who finds herself surprisingly shy in some new situations, or if in a crowd alone.
      I haven't been here all that long myself. I'm still wading. :)

      I hope you stay around, and continue speaking up. It sounds to me you have wisdom to share with us. I look forward to getting to know you. Your comments mean a lot - a newcomer often has the best view.

      It's real nice to see a cowboy hat in these parts too. :)
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        Nov 4 2011: Ha ! Have you ever tried swimmin' with one of these ? I appreciate the encouragement though... and as to truth...well ... I think the world is sufferring from too much of it. I used to believe that the truth could set us free - now I think its killing us... at least the empirical kind.

        Anyway Linda...Thank You! ... I'm looking forward to this little venture into cyber-space !
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      Nov 4 2011: Denis - I like what you say about the need to feel 'right'. It is indeed very interesting and alas it is something I also crave in a conversation - especially when I feel pushed into a corner by someone whose knowledge is better informed than my own. Like others, I can even lapse into 'bulls**t mode' when forced into such a position!

      However, I think being too rooted in 'rightness' can come across as arrogant, particularly when it is delivered with a certain quality of smugness and snide aggression. All that does is to devalue the knowledge that the writer (or speaker) is wanting to get across, and is very likely to close down the conversation.

      On the other hand, if that same knowledge is contained within an empathic understanding of opposing arguments, it holds far greater value, is more likely to alter opinions, and the conversation will run.

      Also being right is ingrained in historical knowledge. It is stuck in the past, emanating as it does from the minds of other thinkers. Some would even say that it is the opposite of creativity.

      In a conversation, I like to think that boundaries have the capability of being pushed. The only way this can happen is to glimpse unknown territory. We can only push boundaries by embracing often 'being wrong' although it may seem counterintuitive to conventional conversations - especially, I have found, with those who think almost exclusively in scientific and linear terms.
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        Nov 4 2011: Hi there Allan !

        Yeah... I hear ya. We are all guilty of the bulls**t mode ... but I am only capable of learning once I'm convinced that my map is outdated, and inaccurate. This is what I love about scientific truth ... it has the power to renew itself, through its own methodology.

        As to arrogance and smugness... its often a sign of a deeper insecurity... a compensation often rooted in the fear of being seen as inadequate. It does devalue the conversation, as you note... and I often find it in individuals who are more interested in their own monologue, the sound of their own voice, and the presentation of an image of themselves.

        The "empathic understanding of opposing arguments" is a wonderful expression, and I believe, a necessary requirement for any real depth of exploration into a particular topic.

        I believe that ALL knowledge is stuck in the past, or to use another metaphor, it filters the actuality of the present. It certainly limits our creativity, but we always need somewhere to start !

        I suspect I have plenty to learn from you ... but unfortunately, I will have to postpone my response to your last paragraph until later ! Life beckons !

        All the Best !
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        Nov 4 2011: Hi again Allan... I really liked your idea of pushing the boundaries of a conversation. I find that the sooner each person becomes aware of the underlying assumptions that are respectively structuring each interpretation/understanding, and recognizing how these assumptions influence perceptions, then the sooner a glimpse of the unknown can break through. By letting go of what I thought I knew, I am at least re-opening to a new clarity... whether I create any new maps or not !

        I sometimes think there are intellectual fundementalists as well... hmmmm? But I wouldn't claim to be certain about that !!!!

        Nietzsche wrote about the "error of the found truth" and believed that all rational thought was interpretation according to a scheme that we couldn't throw off! In other words, he believed that there are no pre-existing facts... that they are all created... but for many of us, we hang onto our concepts, and our world view, as if our life depended on it. Perhaps its out of fear of facing the depths of our own uncertainty that many of us defend certain views. (We wouldn't want our foundations shaken now would we...religious and scientific types alike. God forbid that we see our true condition, if you can pardon the expression.

        Anyway Allan... Thanks for your comment ... and hopefully we will chat again soon !
    • Nov 4 2011: Denis, Good obserations all. What is useful in the absence of direct communication vis a vis personal interaction, here you have got the ability to express entire kernels of wisdom not possible in a social situation.
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        Nov 4 2011: Hey Richard ... I think you've got it ! Its certainly a strength of this format that I didn't recognize. Thank you for that. But as to "kernals of wisdom", I know from my own experience that a flash of insight can come from anywhere, at anytime ... if I am open...and often without any apparent direct relationship to the content of a given conversation. Nonetheless, I did find this little kernal recently, which sums up my own approach quite well :

        Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. ~ Andre Gide

        Thanks for the compliment !
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      Nov 4 2011: Denis, I want to welcome you! I think your observations are excellent. When a communication process is going awry for me, I usually go to the profile to get a better sense of the person and where they are coming from. It helps me to get a better sense of what they were intending to say. I also love the I/thou point that you made. Agreeing to disagree is always an option especially when you remember that it is a real person on the other end and that a small 'victory' for you could be hurtful to the other. Thanks for your perspective.
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        Nov 4 2011: Hello Debra ... how ya doing? Thanks for the welcome ... this whole medium has been a wonderful discovery for me. I didn't know that you could actually get a sense of the real presence of a person on here. As to Martin Buber, I think he fully realized the dangers inherent in the "objective" forms of communication, and what it is doing to our humanity. These he called I-It relations. He also knew of a deeper form of communication... when we truly "encounter" the Other. This way of being he called "I-Thou", and is also the title of his most famous work. Are you familiar with it ? It was a tough read for me many years ago... but it helped enormously in contributing to my perspective !
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    Nov 11 2011: Although I have previously commented and shared what makes a great conversation here on TED for me, I would like to add another reason that I love TED conversations. When someone has the courage to post an heartfelt question and is really soliciting the input of the TED community, I am in with both feet! If I percieve an earnest need, I will spend a lot of time hunting down references or information that I think might help. I cannot wait to let them know that they are not alone and that many TEDsters do care- and I am delighted and touched by how many of us truly do. It does something good for my heart that is almost addictive!
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    Nov 1 2011: I usually try to only speak in conversations where I have something I think is worth adding.
    Maybe a view that nobody has shared yet, maybe just to inspire people I agree with.

    "And bad mistakes, I've made a few"
    Sometimes I speak a bit over my own head
    Other times a topic is so exciting I get involved but have nothing to contribute.

    Overall I just try to have fun, if it's not fun I'm doing it wrong.
  • Nov 1 2011: anything which is understandable (by different ppl of different interests) is a good conversation =)
    > i feel every single being in this universe wanna express(/converse). perhaps it takes a while to start due to fear/false insecurity on others. but it ll change by the understanding - "no one is higher / lower , everyone is gifted, everyone is unique n beautiful, if not you than who.. lets rock" :D
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      Nov 7 2011: Pradee, I like your comment.
      It seems to me TEDsters tend to be appreciative yet busy. Any thought one feels worthy should be expressed. If no one responds, no problem. There just was no connection.
      • Nov 7 2011: that so nice of you Phil.. Thank u very much =)
        Establishing connection with nature/GOD n its ppl is the way to understand the truth n live in love =) Just trying to do that, even though there is no immediate reply from ppl, i can get reply from GOD for sure =) thanks again =)
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    Nov 1 2011: I like a conversation that has the power to change how I think.That's pretty much just it.People shouldn't be afraid to talk to each other.These things that we talk about online has the potential to change how we think.Plus, it's always fun to meet new people.Meeting new people is like getting to know a new culture.It changes about how we think of ourselves.So, now I would like to say :

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    Nov 22 2011: A good conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking and listening not only to words but to non-verbal cues and signals. Online conversations, therefore, may not be as intimate but I think we are evolving specific skills to compensate. For example, I like to read comments and try out different interpretations, inflections and tones -just to check out the possibilities.
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      Nov 23 2011: An alternative to speaking with text is to use video/audio conferencing.

      When someone speaks and moves, you can feel their spark!
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      Nov 29 2011: Sue, that's a good idea--trying to convert words into facial expressions and such. I can't wait to try it.
  • Nov 20 2011: Excellent topic!
    I'd say there are key elements to consider when engaging on TED (and in general)
    1. Stay on topic.
    2. Watch your language & your spelling.
    Vulgarity is the quickest way to loose sight of meaning in professional forums. Recent studies show people who read commentary and discover typos invest less belief in it's value.
    3. Be thick skinned and non-reactive.
    Know that anyone who attacks the comments, beliefs, experiences of another member because of opposing viewpoints, or to correct an inaccuracy in a condescending manner, is not worth your worry. Focus on people and conversation that is welcoming of all viewpoints.
    4. Enjoy.
    This is a great place to learn. Take the pressure off yourself and comment with questions certainly, post thoughtful and relative links - don't worry about being an expert. Know your contributions are valued by the majority.
    5. Pass it on!
    Talk about TED! Share the site via twitter & facebook. Make it your goal to bring people in, let them know what's here. These are truly, ideas (and so much more) worth sharing.
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      Nov 20 2011: Your ideas are so rich! I want to express my preferences on a few:

      1. Off topic should flow a little. If value surfaces, start a new Conversation.
      2. I usually write in Microsoft word for spell check and arrangement then copy to TED.
      3. As world leaders, TEDsters should be intolerant when intolerance is appropriate.

      Thank you for your thoughts.
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        . . 100+

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        Nov 21 2011: Tolerance is the most critical core virtue of a leader.
      • Nov 22 2011: Hi Philip ~
        1. Absolutely. Better said than me - I like it your preference here and your clarity! Agreed :)
        2. Aha! Great tip! (why didn't I think of that?! LOL)
        3. Again - Better said by you - I think our meaning is actually the very similar*.

        *I was referring to the language or method by which TEDsters react.
        I think no matter what, it's critical to be composed. For example - being intolerant of an injustice - certainly. When we feel passionate about something, and meet opposing points of view that express themselves in an indignified manner - it can be tough not to fall to the same level in terms of how we answer rude commentary for instance. Remaining civil & on-point, holding a high standard of communication - those are the practices I was thinking of. But I see where I could've been clearer for certain!

        Thanks so much! I learned much from your three precisely put comments! Nice! :)
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          Nov 22 2011: Hello, Libbey,
          Thank you for your kind thoughts.
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    Nov 19 2011: Silence
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      Nov 20 2011: Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the essay, "Circles," describes dialogue that begins with sharing defintions of words, so that ideas can be shared. I think the progression in sharing leads to silence.

      Of course, I cannot converse with RWE and doubt I understand his essay.
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    Nov 9 2011: Do you read conversations but never comment? Why not?
    The general reason i feel most ppl dont comment iswhen the answer to any of below question is "YES" and you start asking yourself the same questions.
    "Would my opinion mean anything?Am I making any sense?Would I embarrase myself by commenting?

    What can you say to encourage those sitting on the sidelines? Or to those who don't think they have the right thing to say?
    1.The first thing I would like to say here is I have seen (although little but still) People making fun mockery about others views. I think that is one of the main reason if someone feels not to share his view especially if it’s against most of the people's opinion.
    2. Can encourage Youngsters to participate more if possible via media and talking about things that usually a teenager can connect to. For instance why they like to spend time in virtual world rather than real world. Which I think is already a Topic in TEDX. But extending that topics to Face book and Tweeter where usually you would find teenagers this days and attracting them to Contribute in TEDX.Like a application of game in facebook.. Very hard but not impossible to attract youngsters.
    3.I would like to tell all who feel like commenting but stop themselves thinking it might be not good enough is" The question is not whether your comments are good enough or not .It's whether others are good enough to understand it and contribute constructively to what you have to say. So it really does not matter if it sounds right or not; just go ahead and have a say. Your time on earth is limited so make it count not let embarrassment take the better of out you.
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    Nov 9 2011: Being passionately curious. Listening and being genuinely interested :)
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    . . 100+

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    Nov 7 2011: Genuinely feeling that you are being heard.
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      Nov 7 2011: Juliette, Great point.

      Linda, for the past fifteen years, as a writer, I have carefully noted the person who enlightened me. For example, in my conversation about the golden rule, I credited Hugh Finklea with "egocentric," which describes so well the problem I perceive with the rule.

      In my TED conversations, I now reference help from TEDsters, for example, "thanks Andrea," confident Andrea will recognize her contribution. However, I wish TED could detect my appreciation and notify Andrea. I would have to use her complete, correct TED name, but that is not a problem. For programing difficulty, maybe this should be a low priority idea, but for TED building purposes perhaps it should be high.

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        Nov 7 2011: Yes, that would be a wonderful addition, Phillip. I think TED does have features such as this on their wish list, perhaps it's just a matter of where it is on the list. :) Comment notifications in a conversation one is interested or participating in would be helpful too...as Fritzie Reisner mentioned previously. Thanks for this great suggestion...a powerful tool for engagement. :)
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    Nov 2 2011: Mutual respect and a sincere curiosity towards the other person do make for good conversations. Bitter attacks, a condescending attitude and a desire to convince the other about how wrong she/he is, don't.

    Just like we enjoy jokes for their unexpected conclusions, a conversation that brings to light new knowledge on a cherished subjects can be very engaging. Also, we tend to learn better when we hear stories rather than lists of facts, so even during conversations, surrounding the dialogue with a personal story can help internalize the conversation.

    Conversations run on many levels, and some times even what is not said conveys a message. Rich conversations full of levels in which I need to stay sharp to absorb information fully are definitely engaging.

    But I would close going back to my initial words: sincere respect and curiosity towards the other are fundamental.

    Thank you for a great question Linda!
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    Nov 2 2011: My favorite conversations are with people with whom I have no stake in the outcome, and neither do they. An agendaless exchange. An exploration of our shared human experience just because we're here together now. A suspended moment in time which leaves one feeling renewed and connected. Connected to those one will never meet and have the opportunity to talk about whatever.
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      Nov 2 2011: You are quite the mystery ;)

      In my limited experience, you wander the halls here and drop little, powerful gems for us all. Thank you.
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        Nov 2 2011: Wandering the halls of TED . . . I like the metaphor.

        Thank you for your encouragement. I remember when I first began painting. My mother-in-law said, loudly enough for me to hear: "Don't encourage her." : )
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      Nov 3 2011: Hye Lynn, I might point-out that recresocial-gambling can feel good :)

      For example, when talking to "complete strangers" where there is nothing tangible that can be expected from the outcome of the particular interactions, there is always the possibility to walk away with acquisition of positive feelings and/or emotions as a result of having made a connection. This also means one can potentially, subconsciously, consider the possibility of being left to ponder a seemingly negative engagement as well. One could look these recreational-social-gambling-engagements as a potential trigger causing our body to act upon it's natural reward system of chemically-induced feel-good stimuli (eg; oxytocin, serotonin, etc).

      Perhaps the more we "trick" our brain into thinking we have nothing to gain, the greater the predisposition for having a more favorable gambling experience (favorable being define by one's unique perception at a given moment, of what it means to be favorable (eg; "challenging" (if one likes the challenge)), or, "easier" (if one does NOT like the challenge))).
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        Nov 4 2011: That "tricking" one's brain is hard to do, but I think worth a try now and again.

        Regarding negative engagements, I recently had one. It bred an agenda: end this conversation sooner than later. You are correct, however, that the "seemingly negative" can be seen as a challenge and may have led to a 'wisening' in both of us.
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    Nov 1 2011: I think we should follow two things for healthier debates or conversations:
    1) Don't disrespect anyone for their opinions.
    2) End goal shouldn't be just to prove your point but also to understand other person's perspective.

    And sometimes we should also choose to be silent over some conversations because i think v should first educate ourselves before throwing in our ignorant comments...{something, that i had recently failed to do so.}
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      Nov 1 2011: Why not respect everyone, always?
      Some people seek for confirmations of their own view. They can't listen really.
      That isn't bad either because it makes them stronger.
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        Nov 1 2011: What are the best ways to listen, in your experiences? Online, that is. What does it look like for you? Is it in how we respond perhaps?
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          Nov 2 2011: My experience online? Then you mean this TED-conversation site.

          Listening for someone with non active experience of the English language is always poor. It takes a dictionary and reading it over and over until the message starts to pop out. Longer comments I skip altogether as it takes too much time. If it has my interest I will take the trouble but never answer anything unless I’ve deciphered it all. But I’m learning all the time. In Dutch it's a different story all together, my contribution would be a lot more. So my listening as well as my contribution is a kind of minimal.

          Except from language issues I’ve learned long ago that to listen well one has to keep any emotion down as any thought about what you’re eager to express yourself on that particular topic. If it takes that much effort to read the text this isn’t very hard to do so that makes it an advantage. Every disadvantage holds an advantage.

          For the answers I receive I can say little. They can differ a lot in objective and interest.
          My remark however on people that can’t listen well was a general observation from life. In this respect the participants of TED-conversations consist of the better part of humanity.
  • Nov 24 2011: The best conversations I've had are usually spontaneous and without agenda. Perhaps because of that (not preparing for engagement with accompanying defenses), there was more vulnerability and authenticity. A good conversation for me enters the realms of passion (what makes a person come alive), potential (what could their life or our life be) and wonder (the mystery of what is yet to be known). Great conversations are open ended - even after we 'end' the discussion, the thoughts keep swirling and moving, affecting other conversations. I usually lose track of time in a great conversation. I've had great conversations with people of all ages and mental abilities. Some of the best are with those who are most unlike me, like an autistic person. Asking questions that lead to passion, then listening for cues for the next question are great conversation tools. Most people love to talk about their passion if they feel they are being heard and they trust the other person.
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      Nov 29 2011: "Asking questions that lead to passion, then listening for cues for the next question are great conversation tools. Most people love to talk about their passion if they feel they are being heard and they trust the other person."

      So, is your only purpose to learn from the other party?

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    Nov 24 2011: It will be a good conversation if there's no domination in it. Everyone is allowed to speak up and give their point of view. Moreover, the member of the conversation must be open-minded for new ideas.
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      Nov 29 2011: What is the meaning of "domination?' Is it mere abuse or is it holding the better argument? Socrates was unpopular because he usually found the better argument. His peers became so frustrated with him that they unjustly tried him and then executed him. Should the Greek crowd always dominate, or should Socrates better arguement be appreciated?

      Does being opne-minded mean accepting the new idea? Or can it be considering it with integrity then showing why it does not work? If so, where does the responsibility for "good conversation" lie--with the presenter or with the hearer?
  • Nov 23 2011: Thanks Linda - for opening up :What makes a good conversation ... drawing you in and engaging you ? Well, I am a world traveled journalist-filmmaker who is professes to be a videographer ... using my camera as my pencil to interview ordinary people doing extraordinary tasks ... by having wonderful conversations with them ...

    So recently, I started VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE at http://voicesofwomenworldwide-vowwtv.ning.com and now I am conversing wth over 500+ members from all over the world ... The first secret of success is showing genuine concern for "the other" ... who need to be listened to ... to tell their stories ... frankly and without hesitation ...

    What drew the members to the website was VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE's mission was "promoting voices of the voiceless ... women, young girls and children, and even men ... who want to tell their stories ... to anyone who will listen ...

    That's why TED Conversations are so popular ... there are room full of people waiting to listen to heart rendering stories ...
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    Nov 22 2011: Thanks, TED Conversations team! It's good to know that the team and developers are listening. My main concern with the solution chosen was that my ideas for improvement to the forum are bound to be limited, so I thought it would be good to discuss it in the community. Had some general preferences arisen from that, they might have been expressed to the development team. Following advice, I copied and pasted my rough and ready thoughts about forum softwares into the contact form, and the developers would not get the benefit of the community mulling it over.

    I hastily interpreted the removal of my proposal as expressing a view at TED that matters of service provision were not proper subjects for mere users. I'm pleased if that isn't the case, although I still see that action as rather pointless. If developers don't see it, ok, no particular harm would be done. We can still discuss what we like or don't like about forum softwares, and if something important comes out of it, someone can holler in the right direction, I would have thought. Anyway, thanks for posting to clear that up. It's much appreciated.
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    Nov 12 2011: I too like conversations that change my view in some way. It's learning, but more than just addition of knowledge - from little insights to paradigm changes.

    But what I like in retrospect and what I like at the time can be different things. One big paradigm change for me came in a discussion that was infuriating and painful. Later I realised it was a great help to me.

    I was directed to this thread when I enquired about improving the forum software - maybe using a common one like vBulletin. I find the reply system here confusing.

    I don't understand why TED threads are so much better natured than many forums. The moderation seems almost nil, yet I very rarely see name-calling, and I've never seen any flame war at all. Is that because nobody can keep track of the replies?! Maybe it's a partly unconsious mirroring of the lofty aims - maybe we feel ashamed here if we imagine misbehaving, because there is so much about cooperation and building good social futures at TED. Or do the moderators just pounce in the dead of night and disappear the baddies? Or maybe I've missed the flame wars.

    I think the most underrated skill in conversing is "active listening" - checking what the other means as best you can and trying to understand and empathise. I fail big time at it myself when the subject is something I'm passionate about, and I try to persuade the other of my point of view instead. I do sometimes write the most attrocious things. The other best tip, therefore, is to use your patience and the delete key. Eventually I'm usually just left with something that fits my reality without, I hope, being deliberately hurtful because I'm hacked off.

    Then again, I sometimes wonder if we're too concerned about offending people. I enjoy another forum where it's like a zoo, and it's very refreshing. But I guess everyone knows what to expect there. It's a social context thing.
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      Nov 16 2011: HI John -
      I agree wholeheartedly in regards to active listening. I often wonder if it's a developed skill or an intuitive one..or perhaps it's both. What I know for sure is not everyone has it. It takes seeing past the words, doesn't it? Actually feeling into the conversation, for lack of a better word. I'm often struck by the living dynamics of an online conversation, without body language to support it. It's only when we're genuinely engaged we experience the true dynamics of it. It carries an energy of its own, which is often lost in translation when someone comes upon it later. Not always the case, but often.

      I think building social futures is a key component to TED conversations, framed by a collective thoughtfulness inherent to being part of this community.
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        Nov 18 2011: Thanks for your reply, Linda. I guess we have natural capacities for that active listening, but I can certainly point to two things in my life that made it important to me: when I was a kid, my parents rowed quite a bit, and I got into the habit of listening to their arguments critically. We must have some innate logical ability, because I had no training in it, but I began to notice logical fallacies that irritated me, but are a common feature of heated arguments. Many years later I trained as a psychotherapist, so active listening became a skill to practise to help clients explore their lives.

        This does feel like a great community, both for the thoughtfulness you mention and because it's built around such a wonderful set of talks by so many amazing thinkers and doers. I'm getting a thirst for learning again, and the world is full of such awe-inspiring facts and ideas - there's not enough time to watch and read and discuss all the things I want to.
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    Nov 11 2011: And Linda, I loved the other picture too! Was that you greeting the first snow?
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    Nov 11 2011: OK, after going to another conversation, and again seeing a deleted contribution, I have one more thing to say, just on the technical part of the TED conversations.

    I'd would take away the "delete comment" option. It prunes good, flowing conversations leaving them cripple.

    Guys, think before you post, then live with the consequences. But let us enjoy a good conversation.
    Interactions can be serious, funny, informative, challenging, provocative, and wrong. It is all good!
    What is not good, is to find a truncated conversation, with only one side of the dialogue. It is like leaving the TEDster speaking to the hand.
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      Nov 11 2011: Ms Eisner, I appreciate your attention to writers accepting the consequences of their writing and would second your preference.

      I already hastily castigated a fellow TEDster’s post, slept on it, then issued an apology. I considered deleting my offense, but preserved it to clarify why I was apologizing and remind me not to become frustrated again.

      Your concerns prompt me about another issue. Some of my ideas are controversial. My passion is to influence people to appreciate association beyond religion and politics without foregoing their religious preferences and political preferences. The larger association: cooperative quest for republican--rule of law--governance by the governed. The field of concerns is large, and it is typical for one comment to motivate me to respond. The resulting thread can sometimes be interpreted by TED Admin as off topic. I have only one concern with that: creative dialogue, especially any part that is on topic, gets lost to TEDsters. It’s probably in the system somewhere.

      An alternative is to introduce a notice, for example, "This dialogue wandered off topic." Then provide a "button" which could be clicked to that dialogue.

      Also, most people progress on psychological paths. There are times when they would use profanity or behave with other offenses--destructive. I think the record of their progress from the will to use profanity/offense is a wonderful part of their story and should be accommodated to preserve the creative contributions. Thus, I suggest a different message, "This dialogue contains profanity/offense," and another "button" to allow the reader to go there.

      These two changes would require more TED memory and creative programming, but administrative decisions might be less burdensome. I cannot imagine the pressure some TED Admin personnel may feel as they delete dialogue. I think it is a difficult decision and appreciate people who accept the role.

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        Nov 11 2011: Mr. Beaver,
        Glad you would vote for taking away the "delete comments" button.

        In your reply you seem to indicate that TED "curates" every conversation, deleting those portions that are off topic. Is this correct or did I missread what you said?
        I find it difficult to believe that any employee is devoted to read every single entry in order to do this... If that's the case, I probably want the job, as I spend already much more time than I should in these conversations -it is always great to be paid to do something we love :-)
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          Nov 14 2011: It not piece that get deleted--it's the entire dialogue that contains impertinent sub-thread. Thus, any perinences also get deleted.

          I'm OK with that, because TED Admin controls they way they have decided to control. However, I am always looking for improvement.

          I have the impression that eveyrthing gets screened, but TED may have software that looks for particular words that indicate deviation and triggers a reading. I don't know.

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    Nov 4 2011: I like conversations that explore solutions to big problems affecting many people.

    I like conversations that allow me to express my personal beliefs about who I am, what I think is important, and how I am to act on those thoughts.

    I like conversations that expose me. The ones that change me, even a little bit. Some do.
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      Nov 7 2011: I love this, Jim. All of it. I'd add one more, although it falls in line with your last comment too - I like conversations that challenge my belief systems, and turn them inside out. That excites me. ;)
      • Nov 9 2011: Even more?: I crave conversations that lead to some creative action. So that whatever's being talked about moves from the theoretical realm to the physical with the conversation as the starting point. One thing that discourages me from conversations is feeling like it's just going to be more "blah-blah" that gets me excited about things but ultimately leads nowhere.
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          Nov 11 2011: Zoe, I am out of thumbs for you, totally agree.
          I love a wholesome, intense discussion -with a purpose.
          "Let's walk the talk" is my motto.
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    Nov 2 2011: Grrrr, and where was THIS conversation? Was it a month long? How could I have missed it?

    Then I'll have to say what makes a good conversation is first and foremost being able to find what suits your interest...
    TED offers many ways to find information, talks, etc. but conversations are more of a hit and miss thing.

    Also, a good conversation should always have a chronological default setting, or at least a way to see all previously not read entries immediately after entering the conversation. I often missed comments done to a post entered 3 days ago (hence, further down the line and not immediately visible) because I only saw the ones at the top, which currently are the more active ones...

    My 2 cents anyway. I am not complaining, though; I am tremendously thankful that we have this forum, and this wonderful team of TEDsters that brings it to life.

    Kudos, TED!
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      Nov 7 2011: I'd like to see 2 changes that might be easily made. First, make the number of replies six instead of three, so that subthreads are often maintained instead of broken up. Second, add a feature to elect "thank you" if you would like to after a "thumbs up" is awarded.
    • Nov 9 2011: I think "disqus" uses a feature (meaning the template is already there; maybe easy to implement) where you can choose the comments you're seeing (newest first, most popular first, etc).

      "Thank you" is nice :)
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    Nov 1 2011: I like conversations that seek to clarify and test the assumptions we may be making in thinking about an issue so that we can establish either common understandings or an understanding of whether we disagree because of our assumptions, values, or arguments. I like conversations that move us forward in understanding an issue better or in solving a problem.
    I am relatively new to TED and would participate more if there were alerts when someone adds to a thread in which I have made a comment. Maybe one can get such alerts, but I don't know how.
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      Nov 2 2011: It would be great to have alerts when comments are made on threads we comment on. I think it's on TED's wish list. :) TED Conversations is relatively new, and the needs are being met as they can get to them. I'd be curious to know if others would like alerts...or the option to receive them.

      I'm pretty new myself, Fritzie. Nice to meet you! I love your name :) Is there a story there?
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        Nov 2 2011: Only the usual kind of story. Named after a grandpa.
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        Nov 2 2011: Linda, do you mean a sound alert in your phone or computer?

        Because I already get an email for every comment and thumb done in connection to mine on TED, you should too.
        To me that's enough to give an idea of the level of activity. But I don't mind if there is a delay of several hours, as I am not online all the time... maybe you prefer instant connectivity to maintain a more effective dilogue?
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      Nov 2 2011: wonderful Frtizie and welcome..may we enjoy many conversations ..what you lay out is to me what TED is for and what it means to have a global conversation. Flad to have you here.
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    Nov 1 2011: Yes MacKay ID sure is a beautiful but pretty isolated spot. I too live in a rural area and I'll bet I'm the only TED person for miles around and am finding this is a godsend.

    This is a great question. So here ya go:

    - be prepared to spend some time responding when a question is posted.
    - be positive and complimentary and say thanks whenever you can
    - write succinctly as possible
    - tell short stories
    - ask a question at the end of your comment. it draws more conversation

    So what do you think?

    Thanks Linda - btw - love your photos. My first job was as a cowboy in western Montana so I get it!
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      Nov 1 2011: ah..Bill Burns. I remember seeing you were in Washington State. It's my favorite place..and probably where I belong. I'm like most of the Norwegians off the boat - never made it all the way :) Thanks for the kind words on the photos :).

      'Be prepared to spend some time responding." For me, this might be the defining difference between this site and other online conversation experiences. Thoughtfulness and challenging perspectives that ask us to reach a little deeper. Good points, Bill. All of your points are applicable to good communication, in general, don't you think?
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        Nov 7 2011: Chaos is wonderful, so I would not want to see rules. However, when Bill Burns starts a conversation, it seems to me he responds to every contributor. I think people should tend to mimic Bill's commitment.
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    Nov 1 2011: Conversation is like construction - if you constantly take away from the structure with "Yes, But" it won't amount to much, What if we are open to others opinions, insights and ideas and work on a "And also" model - where every idea is added onto the previous ideas and we end up with something that wasn't anyboy's idea, rather everybody's ideas.
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    Nov 1 2011: I am new to TED. However, what I like to do when making comments online is to find something, no matter how minor, with which to agree. Once I have found some things with which to agree then I feel like I can go on and give some viewpoints which may differ somewhat from some things other may have said. Or I like to ask questions to make sure I do understand what others are saying. It is so easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions in online conversations and yet I find most people are very willing to explain exactly what they mean when queried. I comment often when I feel like I know what I am talking about somewhat, but am silent when I feel like I have nothing to add. Great topic Linda. It has made me think.
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    Nov 30 2011: Hi Linda !

    I haven't seen you around much... I hope everything is ok in your world... it is in mine ... so drop by, if you drop in...k?

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      Nov 30 2011: Hi Denis!

      How's life? You're right...I haven't been around much lately. It's such a busy time of year.
      Hope you're well. So glad to see you're still here engaging in conversations!
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        Nov 30 2011: Well Linda...

        I still have lots to learn... but I am certainly starting to feel more at home here... despite the viewing gallery ! Ha!

        I am so glad you are ok ... its strange how a few brief interactions can evoke concern ... maybe there's hope for this form of communication after all !

        Although I gotta say, I was ready to pack it in for a bad trip on a number of occassions... as you well know !

        Anyway... its good to see that you are back !

        You missed out on a few good fights, that could have used your tactful interventions. Actually, the whole thing amuses me at times... including my own reactions... so this time... stay out of it ! OK... people like you ruin a perfectly good fight... Ha !

        Talk to you again soon !
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          Dec 1 2011: Good one, Denis! However, I don't recall breaking up a fight :) Although I do have a great deal of experience doing that in my life's time. hah. There is often a great deal to learn from a good fight...if we're willing to look.

          Well, as I've said before, you're a welcome addition to this community and I look forward to more conversations over time.
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        Dec 1 2011: Yeah... for sure !

        More often than not, I find that most fights are fought on faulty grounds... unacknowledged assumptons, mis-interpretations, paradyme protectionism etc.

        And Thank you Linda... your Welcome was very encouraging to me ...

        Still learnin' the Ropes !
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    Nov 23 2011: I like that word ... 'spark' ... it makes me think how we can ignite interests simply by connecting. I've been thinking about some of the most intense conversations I've had with my children and foster children - and they've been in the car whilst I have been driving. This makes me think that perhaps we overestimate the importance of non-verbal cues and eye contact - maybe it's actually more important to really analyse the words - you see the spark continues!
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      Nov 29 2011: The car is wonderful, because it isolates people.