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Focused Conversation Method

The origin of Focused Conversation Method


After World War II, surviving soldiers came home not knowing how to digest the incomprehensible experiences and pain. Joseph Mathew was a army chaplain, who accompanied US Marines in several key battles. After returning from war to his university professorship, he searched for ways to help people process the events of their lives, “How could people build their own meaning out of their own trials?”
One person who proved most helpful to Mathews was an art professor. She showed him that any encounter with art involves a “trialogue”—or three-way conversation—between the art, the artist, and the observer. Thus it is relatively useless to ask a pianist what is meant by a certain composition. All the musician can do is to recreate the experience by playing it again and letting the listener respond to that. Suddenly lights went on in the professor’s mind. This was connecting with things he was reading in the 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard and some 20th century European thinkers. Mathews decided to create a format for conversations using this approach, and to experiment with conversations on various art forms with his university community. Great results were achieved. He began calling his method “the art form conversation”, which evolves into the “Focused Conversation Method” with applications in organizations.

Benefits of the Method


Focused conversation method is a world famous questioning methodology with wide application in all kinds of sectors. It is also used to design meetings. It is a natural thinking process and can be used to prepare questions in sequence to help conversation to stay in focus.
Because the methodology corresponds to principles of how human beings operate, there is a wide range of application of this methodology. Outstanding results were achieved in one-on-one interviews, small group discussion, and team meetings. It is especially powerful when a group of people wanting various in-depth view points for a very clearly defined focus.

Solid Questioning Framework with Clear Levels


Focused conversation method is based on the natural process of how people react to external stimuli. The structure is solid and with clear levels. When facilitator ask questions appropriately designed according to different levels of thinking, participants will be able to share their various perspectives, feelings, perceptions with grounded data and the facilitators can remain objective and neutral. A big picture can be surfaced for the whole group.

How does Focus Conversation Method work?


There are 4 levels:

Level 1: Discover Objective Facts
* Each individual is an independent entity with unique background and experience
* Different individual will pick up different facts even going through the same event or observe same material
* Focused conversation will allow different individuals to contribute their different observations to present the fact more comprehensively.

Level 2: Reflecting Individual Feelings
* Feelings can connect ones experience with external stimuli
* Feelings are sometimes presented with intuitive response. Meanings will be resulted when we are able to perceive our feelings
* Focused conversation method when used properly can help people name their feelings that are not easily expressible and then unique perspectives can be formed smoothly.

Level 3: Presenting Various Viewpoints
* Different viewpoints are various interpretations to the same topic. Each viewpoint represents a set of beliefs and assumptions for matters.
* Focused Conversation Method can help participants discuss interpretations of a given topic, allow various interpretations and explore the underlying assumptions of specific opinions. This process will enhance participants to understand and learn from each other about the topic in a deeper and wider way.

Level 4: Opening for New Possibilities
* Integration of the discussion is the catalyst for change and action
* Focused Conversation Method can help all participants to converge their thinking into foundation of next steps. New possibilities are opened up!

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