Most of us experience a variety of conversations on a daily basis without giving a second thought to what exactly we are doing. We share information with others, exchange stories with one another, and engage in dialogue. We can do such through a variety of mediums now, such as in-person and online. While having a conversation is a ubiquitous aspect of our society, we often give little thought about its possible impact and power. Conversations, though, hold powerful implications on abilities to not only affect people’s opinions on issues, but also create a stronger sense of community for organizing efforts.
Sometimes the simple can be the most meaningful. Douglas, Sarah, and I have been meeting every Sunday for brunch for several weeks, and tonight we are sharing a dinner. Sometimes we have other people with us, and sometimes we share a meal with just us. We do so because we are friends who wish to share time together, but I think there is something stronger in these meals: We have meaningful conversations. We start discussing a topic, we share our personal stories and opinions, and we usually come to some sort of consensus about the topic or idea (even if it is that we have differing ideas). I’m not writing that this mode of conversation is revolutionary. I am writing, though, that this mode is powerful and often underappreciated in the world at large.
As I have conversations online with friends and write my Capstone Paper for my academic program, I am struck by the sheer power that conversations can have on the power to potentially create social change. When my friends and I started Neighbors for Equality, a grassroots initiative focused on LGBTQ advocacy in rural North Carolina, we wanted our basis to be on conversations. We hosted events called “Coffee and Conversation.” We knew that conversations among LGBTQ individuals and allies were important to build a strong supportive sense of community within rural areas in North Carolina. We knew that conversations between these individuals and the greater community meant the potential to share about the potential harms of North Carolina’s Amendment One, a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. We knew that conversations throughout the state through starting Tweet Chats via Twitter were important to connect folks with strategy and ideas. When we started NFE, we believed in the power of conversation. We still do, and we are currently working on developing more strategies and resources regarding conversations as well as starting monthly Tweet chats again.
The power of words and conversations, though, cannot always be measured easily by quantitative data that most of the world values. Such is perhaps why conversations are such powerful tools in social justice movements. We cannot always measure people’s thoughts and sentiments. We can, though, feel personal connections in some way. We can, though, share a conversation that at least introduces a new perspective. We can, though, share conversations among friends to build community and come up with new ideas. The beauty and strength of conversation cannot be overstated; we must continue to embrace and appreciate the art of conversation in our works.