Wright Foundation | December 29, 2015

The Kama Sutra
of Conversation

The Kama Sutra, the ancient guide on making love and sex, seems far off from the topic of workplace conversation, at least at first mention.

You’re probably wondering what on earth one has to do with the other.

What is conversation? Conversation is engagement between two people, where desired outcomes are expressed, where people are connecting verbally and stating their yearnings and longings (or sometimes adding them to the sub-context). Great conversationalists listen, they engage, they make eye contact, and they care about the other person’s desired outcome as well as their own.

What is intercourse? Well, besides the obvious, intercourse is engagement between two people moving toward a desired outcome and mutual pleasure. Great love-makers are connected physically and emotionally. Their yearnings and longings are being realized and they’re meeting the yearnings and longings of the other person. Just like great conversationalists, they engage, they make eye contact, and they care about the other person’s enjoyment and pleasure as well as their own.

Unfortunately, there’s no Kama Sutra for conversation, but the same guidelines and principles apply. Truly connecting with the other person, expressing your desire, listening and moving together to a desired outcome—those are the components of amazing conversation.

How to Be a Great Conversationalist

What are the qualities of a great conversationalist? They’re interested in others, they’re curious, they’re good listeners, and they pick up on social cues while maintaining rapport and conversational flow. They understand when to share, and when to hold back. They clarify and ask questions.

Too often in conversation, we zone out or catch ourselves going through the motions. Sometimes we open our mouths and start blabbering on about OUR WANTS and OUR NEEDS with no regard for the other person, or the desired outcome and shared vision. These things don’t make for great conversation. They make for BORING conversation.

When you meet someone who is truly versed in how to make a conversation interesting, they know exactly when it’s time to share and relate. The person they’re engaging with feels listened to, even if they weren’t agreed with. They might say, “Tell me more about that.” They clarify and try to get more information.

A great conversationalist brings their own stuff to the table as well. We’ve all met someone who’s able to fall into a rhythm in any conversation and keep it going without dominating the conversation. It comes back to the Kama Sutra of conversation—understanding when to engage and up-regulate the conversation and when to down-regulate the interaction.

What it really comes down to is excellent social and emotional intelligence—understanding others and caring about them and their humanity, while still understanding ourselves and caring for ourselves; learning to express our desires and feelings without trampling down or disregarding the yearnings of our conversational partner.

Getting Conversations Back on Track

Sometimes you might find yourself engaged in a conversation with someone who scares you. Perhaps you feel they don’t care about your feelings or you can’t figure out the right way to engage with them. Maybe they’ve disregarded you, assaulted you emotionally or said hurtful things to you in the past. They might remind you of someone else who’s made you feel small or disregarded, and you might be projecting your memories of that person onto this new conversational partner.

Any time a conversation is running off the rails, you can always steer it back with honesty. Use the opportunity to be honest, explain, regain your steering, and assess everyone’s alignment.

When you have to engage with someone whom you dread, get the conversation back to the productive range by saying, “Look, I don’t understand what you want from me and I can’t read you. Help me understand your expectations and what I can do to make you satisfied with my work. I want you to be satisfied with me. Help me understand the vision of what that looks like.”

If you’ve made a mistake, apologize and move on. Take personal responsibility. Learn what you need to in order to come out of the mistake, fix what you can, and move forward. When we make a mistake, we have a tendency to see ourselves as victims, to long for a rescuer, and to start down the path of the drama triangle. Don’t do it. Instead, use honesty to regain your steering.

When it comes down to it, conversation is back and forth engagement. It’s connecting with another person. It’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to engage openly and honestly with someone else from a place of confidence and authenticity. When we’re seeking a mutually beneficial outcome and we’re honest about our desires, the confidence and ease comes naturally, and we find we become well versed in the art of conversation.

Listen to past episodes of Wright’s Lifestyle Podcasts here on BlogTalkRadio.


To continue the conversation on engaging with others and to discover ways to bring out your best self, click here to learn more about our More Life Training workshops. Kick off the year by engaging in what I promise will be one of the best weekends of your life. It will give you the tools you need to go forth and ignite your world.

You’ll be able to read all about these ideas and more in Dr. Bob and Judith’s Wright’s book: The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer. (Available now on Amazon!)

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Blog post image courtesy: Flickr user michalo.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.