Posts Tagged ‘Conversation’

Circle in a storm

Jul 06, 2010 // 5 Comments » // Conversational Circles

Center of Circle - ConversationCircles

Center of Circle - ConversationCircles

What do they have in common?

A Harvard undergraduate in his 20s with a career in financial management

A senior HR manager in her 30s with a manufacturing firm

A certified tour-guide in his 50s with years of experience in the construction industry

A pre-university graduate in his late teens awaiting national service enlistment

A business development manager in her 30s with a multinational consulting firm

A professional facilitator in his early 40

A financial controller who has live and work in Singapore for the last 7 years

A friend and I. Nothing in common perhaps, and most do not know each other before last Saturday.

We gathered in a circle on a Saturday morning despite the overcast weather and started talking.

IMG_3940I started the conversational circle with a poem, shared the Intention – We agreed to gather for circle experience and practice with no personal agenda and motives, no practical and extrinsic goals, no discussion and understood that this was no ordinary meeting. With some intense frowning and worried look, the Checked-in calmed nerves and released inhibition. Someone volunteered to be Guardian and smiles returned to the social gathering level and suddenly conversations started to flow…

IMG_3958The phrase “speak my mind” was placed in the center and Talking Piece was passed round to galvanize maximum listening and speaking. Not to my surprised, the power of circle enable thoughts and listening to flow deep and wide. As I was hoping that time stood still except for the conversations…an unusual storm (in Singapore but not till lately) gathered pace and starts raining down unto our circle space. We shifted our seating arrangement twice to avoid the rain but the storm seems to challenge our intention ever more fiercely…and to avoid being drench, we have to disband our circle to look for sheltered cover.

As I was wondering how we will regroup and realized that nothing I have read in the circle work so far prepared me for such an emergency…I panicked. What heartened me was that despite the threatening storm and chaotic moments, no one in the group shows the intention of abandoning the circle conversation. Everyone was trying to encourage one another and help out in making sure that the circle is ready to reconvened whenever opportunity arise.

I stood there enthused “But they were strangers before…?”

Eventually, a friend asked “Do you WANT this to continue?”

“Yes, I DO” came my firm reply but still not sure how…

“Then lets find a way to make it happen!” a response more assuring than mine.

IMG_3982The friend went to the visitor center at HortPark, asked for room availability, paid with his credit-card and in no time the circle continue in a safe, enclosed and comfortable room with the Talking Piece regaining its momentum. As the storm continue to rage outside…the conversations flourished within. We realized that while the sharing got deeper, the listening got fonder. It was a pity that someone has to leave early while others craving for more…but what’s important was that we persevered when the storm thought our intention would crumbled under its rage. We Checked-out with everyone sharing their personal reflections and learning. When the Guardian rang the bell to close the circle conversation, I sensed that most were glad that they answered the circle’s call…

I hope that we gave as much as we received.

What’s in the name of a father?

Jun 13, 2010 // No Comments » // Stories Retold


“Is Liverpool going to win today?” my dad asked.

“Don’t know…maybe a draw.” I responded.

“They are at away ground, so maybe very difficult…” my dad lamented.

“Well, normally yes but the form of some key players have been good lately and….” I went on and on sharing my analysis of my beloved Liverpool Football club which I have supported since the age of 12 years old. All the time our pairs of eyes glued to the t.v. screen as we chatted. I guessed this is how my dad and I have communicated all these years…without looking into each other eyes.

Frankie LimFrankie Lim, a first generation Singaporean born in 1940 and like many Chinese Singaporeans at that time where parents are migrants from mainland China such as Fujian, Guangzhou and Hainan. I was told by my uncles that my dad is one of the smarter siblings of 12 brothers and sisters. He graduated from Chinese High and I still vaguely remembered he brought me to one of their alumni gathering at the school compound at Upper Bukit Timah when I was about 5 years old. From some very old family photo collection, he seems to be very popular in school and during his younger days…he was an athlete, both track and fields and team-sports, and he told me of some stories about how he was interested as a Chinese activist for the then Communist insurgent and underground meetings through some high profile Chinese schools in the 1950s.

My dad is a proud man. For the longest time he has always been self-employed and a businessman. After his first job as a pharmaceutical deliveryman; where he met my mom, he has never been a salary-man for the rest of his career. I know very little of what he does and where does his passive income coming from all these years since retiring very early in his 50s. Perhaps he also know very little of me of what I do for a living and what my aspiration is…you would have imagine what kind of communication we had with each other over the years – something I have never been proud of…

We celebrated his 70th birthday two weeks ago. And I wish him Happy Father’s Day this week…and many more weeks after this!

Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew

Jun 11, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Stories Retold

Cover of Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew

I was at Professor Tom Plate’s public lecture at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in conjunction with the book-launch the other week. I must confessed that the word ‘Conversation’ was the main draw for me even though I am a great admirer of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

I went with so many questions in my mind:

What kind of conversation could an American journalist have with MM Lee especially with so many run-ins he has with western journalism in the past?

What sort of conversationalist Tom would rate MM Lee after spending two-days interviewing him at Istana?

Many would regard MM Lee as a great intellect (which some might agree that they are not so good as a listener) throughout his political career, how would Tom rate MM Lee as a listener?

In the end, I was quite captivated by the story he shared about the time he spent with MM Lee that I felt there is no need for me to ask those inconsequence questions.

Professor Tom shared that his interview with MM Lee was quite an emotional roller-coaster ride. He uses famous movie character and scenarios such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Godfather and even Rush Hour (Singapore Style).

I find it to be one of the lightest reading MM Lee related book by far. Enjoy!

Mastering the art of ‘Agreed to Disagree’.

Apr 12, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Conversational Circles | Team Intervention

Woody Allen – Acclaimed Screenwriter, Film Director, Actor and Comedian (not in that particular order of merit).

Billy Graham -  American Christian evangelist, is best known for his worldwide evangelistic crusades preaching the message of Christianity to more people than anyone in history.

What can we learn from them about  the art of agreed to disagree? Quite a fair bit I thought after chanced upon this interview video clip on YouTube. A few excerpt to highlights:

Woody (0:10) – “Whether you agree his (Billy Graham) point of view or not on things…extremely interesting to talk to…I don’t agree with him on many of great subjects…”

Billy (0:40) – “It’s very nice to be with you Woody and I like to say there’s some things that I don’t agree with you on…”

Woody (0:46) – “Yeah…but the question is which one of us will be converted by the end of this conversation…”

Alright, I hope this is enough to wet your appetite for this clip. But the point I would like to bring across is not really about the interview per se but the manner both gentlemen carried the dialogue with strong disagreement and conviction of certain values and assumptions and how they brought their thoughts across yet with space for each other to be ‘touch’ and listen to. I thought there was much ’learning’ from the dialogue.

David Bohm (1917 – 1992). Renowned physicist and theorist who was one of the most original thinkers of the second half of the twentieth century says this:

“…people can share the frustration and share their different contradictory assumptions and share their mutual concerns and stay with it – if everybody is concern together, and looking at it (the concern) together – then you have a chance of common consciousness.” (On Dialogue, p38)

ConversationCircles’ vision is to enable organization and community the ability to create meaningful, collaborative and authentic conversation. We are only at the beginning of this dream and we hope that YOU are in this journey with us.

I have also included a facilitator guide for an experiential activity titled “Fall Out Shelter Problem” that help team to work on learning the skills of agreed to disagree.

Download HERE. Do feel free to drop me a note if you need further help on the guide.

Note: if you really enjoy the clip, go to YouTube and catch the part 2 and see how they end the conversation…Have fun!

Harvard’s Lecture

Mar 11, 2010 // No Comments » // Conversational Circles

I would like to invite you to join me at Harvard for a series of lectures by Michael Sandel. Michael is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. His books include Democracy’s Discontent, Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics, The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, and, most recently, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? His writings have been translated into eleven foreign languages and have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, and the New York Times.

The 12 lectures focuses on wide variety of topics ranging from Moral, Life and Pleasure, Freedom of Choice, Action and Purpose etc. Topics are mainly philosophical and at best epitomized human wisdom. Though I am into only the third lecture myself (about 55mins/lecture), what I find useful is Michael’s ability to capture the large audiences attention through his questioning techniques and creating powerful dialogue amongst the students. Here’s what others said about his lecture series:

“(Sandel) is able to conduct remarkably effective dialogues in those large classes, like a conductor picking out a wind here, a brass there. He poses moral dilemmas so acute one could escape the agony only by thinking.” – Kathleen Sullivan, former JUSTICE teaching fellow, now a professor at Stanford Law School

“He is the greatest teacher I have ever seen. He is able, without visible effort, to make a lecture to students seem like an intimate, Socratic dialogue.” – Jed Rubenfeld, former JUSTICE teaching fellow, now the Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law, Yale Law School

And there is more…do visit JusticeHarvard to watch the 12 episode videos, episode summary, discussion guide, addition readings and many more. You can even join a discussion circle or start your own discussion group.

A point to note, I am recommending the Harvard’s lecture series for its method of discussion, the challenging questions and methods of inviting conversation that we can learn from as facilitator and less so for its philosophical contents.

Have fun!