The Music Of Conversation

I had the great fortune of attending the Web2Open (the unconference portion of Web2.0Expo, organized by the incomparable Whitney Hoffman) this past week. Sharing space with some of the smartest and loveliest people I know (and some that I just met) is a rare treat.  Being able to interact with people who share passions and are totally supportive of each other is one of the true soul-nourishing activities in life.

Taking a moment to sit back and appreciate the situation got me thinking about how any great conversation amongst engaged people, regardless of the subject or the context, has a musical quality to it.  It ebbs and flows, gets louder and quieter, sometimes there’s silence and sometimes there’s cacophony.

You can recognize aspects of certain genres of music within every communication.  Sometimes the bombast of opera rules, sometimes the polite and delicate nature of baroque, sometimes the high-energy groove of AC/DC.  Of all the options, the style that provides the most joy by far (for me at least) is jazz. Let me explain.

Jazz Trio

A solid jazz trio can anticipate what their band mates are going to do before they do it and are able to dance around the melody without ever losing it.  Each member brings something different to the equation.  The percussion holds the group together rhythmically, bass provides the foundation of the song, and the lead instrument provides the melody and variations. They each come to a song with their own point of view, and each contribution is essential for the success of the whole.  The original song is treated with care, but lightly.  There is freedom within the structure.

The jazz of interplay  is something that may be most apparent in person, but is certainly not limited to conferences. The freedom to riff and build up connection is fundamental to all communication, be it in-person conversation, chatting on IM, posting on Facebook or any other Social Media tool, on a messageboard, through dance, acting, kissing, or even sitting quietly on a park bench with no words at all.

I am eternally humbled, grateful and very thankful for the opportunity to meet, interact and be inspired by these remarkable fellow humans who create so much music with every word.

Great communication is jazz.

Come play.