Origin of the book and its content

These come from my direct lived experience of the role of conversation in my personal and professional life.

Which I became conscious of in the 80’s and 90’s when I was a university lecturer in the School of Medicine at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. This was in the field of nutrition in which I had practised initially with farm livestock in southern Africa. And then with a more interesting species after I had undertaken a masters degree in Human Nutrition at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK. I did this course after being awarded my PhD, came to Australia in 1975 and obtained a position to establish a postgraduate course in Nutrition and Dietetics.

My research focused on why people choose to eat particular foods in different contexts. On ways in which people see ‘meaning’ in food, on the premise that a food item has no ‘meaning’ – a perceived personal relationship – except what each person projects onto it. This varies with context, for example a breakfast cereal is fine to eat on our own in the morning but not to serve to dinner guests. As you may suspect the social contexts of eating have a substantial influence on food choice decision making.

This work required a ‘qualitative’ research approach, interviewing small numbers of people in depth about how they made food choice decisions.

I found this research fascinating, not least as it was based on establishing good relationships with people and having rich conversations with them. And so when I decided to leave the world of academe (took an early retirement in 1994) I determined to craft a new career as someone who facilitates conversations about things that matter. Which I have been doing ever since in diverse places around out little planet, 3rd from the sun.

During this time I have:

. facilitated many meetings and forums using conversational processes particularly Open Space Technology (OST) and theWorldCafe

. kept copious journal notes on personal experiences and observations.

. recorded many quotes related to what conversation is and does in daily life and more generally.

. met with numerous remarkable people from whom I have harvested wisdom; some of these people are mentioned in the book.

. invented a new form of socialising which I have called Conversare.

Time to converse – at the heart of human warmth is one outcome of these endeavours. I first composed the ideas for it – from my extensive notes – while on a visit to Bali in 2002 and then made them available as photocopied ‘pamphlet.’ I gave this to people with the request that they keep it for a month at most and then pass it on.

In 2005 my wife Carmen and I went to live in Hong Kong, where we spent six happy years before returning to Adelaide. It was during our time based in Asia that I had a revised version printed as a 50 page booklet. Much ‘wholesome’ feedback on this prompted me to elaborate the content and to produce further versions.

And now a much enlarged print copy. This 4th edition is also printed in Hong Kong, during my visit to there in January 2014.

This reflects learning and insights from the range of conversationally oriented activities and ventures in which I was engaged while living in Asia – around which I travelled extensively. And now back in Australia and pursuing new ways of living and doing while maintaining connections to many friends and colleagues all over the world.

These experiences have confirmed the central themes of the book now made more explicit than in the earlier versions.

The ideas are now here for you to savour, enjoy, experiment with and notice the difference this makes to the quality of your life and that of the people around you.

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