“This is where a lot of life happens is in the context of these exchanges and interchanges, where relationships are built, where healing can happen, where learning can take place, where deep connection can be fostered.”

Are you aware of how much you try to control how others perceive you? And what about your responsibility in conversations…? To keep channels open, to care about the feelings that we create in others when we talk or when we listen?

As well as encouraging us to find a way to relinquish control over how others perceive us, my guest, Devin Singh, raises with us the notion of ethics of care in our conversations. It’s a position that, with age, I’ve come to value more – that we are or ought to have concern for how others receive what we say and share in conversation exchanges way more than how others perceive us. For Devin, it’s about being kind, attentive and present in our relationships.

Perhaps his point of view has been strongly shaped by his childhood living overseas with his diplomat mother and the professional path he has chosen for himself, and perhaps in part it has been pre-determined by his own DNA. And like many of us, there are things that challenge us in conversations and determine how we show up in conversations – the masks we wear in different places and with different people, our triggers, and our attempts to control how others perceive us while wanting to deeply belong to groups and people that attract us.

Jump Spots

2:34 – About Devin; research and teaching on the connection between religion, culture, economics and business; his audiences as a professor, author, speaker, leadership coach, and strategist

6:20 – Public, small, group, private and internal conversations; internal thought processing in writing, conversations as oral and written form

8:20 – Switching between internal processing and external processing

9:06 – Rhythm between internal, quiet reflection and speaking externally to talk and process; limiting beliefs, autopilot conversations

11:04 – Freudian slips; value judgements; attentive listener reflecting back to you

11:57 – Better conversations are about being attentive, invested in the moment, emotional energy; posture and body language; lines of enquiry and interest; openness, vulnerability, empathy, charitableness, graciousness

15:00 – Making the other person feel safe; morality of communicating care and attentiveness 

16:10 – Devin’s childhood, single working mother, foreign service officer and diplomat in Africa, cross cultural styles, codes, contexts, scripts in conversations

17:50 – Diplomatic contexts that shape our language and levels of openness in conversations – strong communication cultures

20:45 – Workplace power and dynamics; temptation to score a point or attention versus negotiation

22:32 – People who’ve influenced Devin’s conversation style: mother, teachers, 

24:32 – Responsibility to listen, ethics of care as fundamental to our human existence, altruism

25:55 – When we’re feeling emotionally charged, hard to maintain posture of care towards others, vulnerability, need for care ourselves, stoicism vs expression

28:08 – Worst conversations; feeling pre-judged, sensitive to gossip, visceral reaction; attempts at mind-reading, making assumptions about others and each other

31:19 – Consciousness, philosophical problem, source of anxiety – other minds that perceive, judge or value us; our sense of self based on the perception of others; socialising

32:31 – Lack of control when we’re judged; power, ego; relinquish some control; self-protection; personal branding

34:13 – Desire to belong makes us alert to anything that creates a risk to that; survival means inclusion, exclusion means a kind of death or isolation; what will the group conclude about me

36:22 – People pleasing; over-sensitised to and avoiding discomfort, familial conflict, anger

37:57 – How childhood conversation experiences (with limited language capabilities and understanding) shape conversations in adulthood; relational rupture and breakdown; subconscious scripts

40:30 – Fear of making the other person uncomfortable; cross-cultural communication; not alienating the listener; good discomfort vs distracting discomfort

42:58 – Responsibility for keeping communication channels open; attending to the other person; empathy needs to be connected to active listening

45:25 – Masks we wear to control the narrative; authenticity; code-switch in different settings; first-generation college students and working class backgrounds; wearing different hats; managing up and down

49:55 – Conversational chemistry; spending time with someone, being present, to be ‘seen’, reflecting back what you hear, ask questions; intuition, non-verbal clues

52:29 – Burden of expectations for connecting immediately with another person; patience; ethic of care – simply and genuinely demonstrate concern and care for the other person

55:32 – Triggering something with someone – carve out space for more intentional conversations

56:12 – Key message: centrality of conversations, conversational ethics and guidelines to adopt on our lives and relationships – kindness, attention and presence as people interact with one another

Connect with Devin

Devin researches and teaches on the connection between religion, culture, economics and business. He’s an Associate Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA as well as being an author, speaker, leadership coach and strategist.

To connect with Devin Singh or to let him know what you enjoyed about his conversation:

LinkedIn | Website | Email | Twitter

Better Conversations with Sehaam Cyrene

Better Conversations with me Sehaam Cyrene where we have conversations about good conversations, rubbish conversations, and thought-provoking conversations. My guests are candid, open and disarmingly intimate about their conversation habits. Listen on Apple, Spotify and Stitcher.

If you’d like to appear on the show or have a burning question about conversations, do drop me a line – podcast@betterconversations.co – I’m all ears. Or book a 30-minute chat with me to explore conversations.