The Benefits of High-Quality Talk: Connect, Grow, and Thrive


“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” ~Pema Chodron

I was always disturbed and discouraged during periods in my life when I was stuck, circling in an eddy, moving—but going nowhere.

At times I was stuck in my job: I was bored and couldn’t figure out how to get excited again. Even though I was the CEO and had lots of freedom to make changes in my organization and in my personal work activities, I couldn’t see what might move me toward my potential.

At other times, I was stuck in a marriage that wasn’t dynamic, or I was between relationships and without prospects for the love and excitement I felt I needed to be happy.

During those periods of dormancy, I was aware that I was stuck, and I was willing to shake things up to be able to emerge. But I didn’t know exactly what needed shaking up within myself, and I didn’t know how to shake myself up. I needed to be thrown out of the nest.

I read broadly during those periods. I meditated. I exercised.

But I continued to circle in an eddy of my own consciousness.

Over time, I discovered how to bring high-quality talk into my life every day, and that discovery gave me the freedom and skill I needed for the dynamic life I wanted. 

Creating high-quality talk gave me creative control over my own emergence.

High-quality talk is:

  • Authentic and intimate. We are real. We are without disguise, as much as we are capable.
  • Open. We explore without censorship. We are looking, looking, breathlessly, and we move together into the unknown fearlessly.
  • Intentionally focused on what wants to emerge in each of us, the most important potential to develop next.
  • Balanced between listening and talking. We listen to each other deeply to hear what has been hidden. We ask questions. We shine our lights into each other’s dark corners.

High-quality talk produces inestimable value:

  • Excitement. I am pushed off into uncharted territory, and know this journey requires courage, wit, and improvisation. I am fully awake.
  • Nurturance and support. Someone is deeply interested and invested in my potential. I feel loved.
  • Clarity. With each high-quality exchange, I am clearer about what I must learn and how to learn it. Eventually, I will see everything about this part of my life without fear, self-deception, or ego.
  • Accountability. I must do what I say I will do between our high-quality talks. I make commitments to try new thinking or new behavior. I will lose my credibility as a learning partner if I don’t follow through.

As I discovered how to create more high-quality talk in my organization, our potential was ignited.

I learned how to create high-quality talk in my planning sessions with my top executives. In many of our dialogues we moved into states of heightened awareness. In these states, our best was released—our love and our intellects.

We were a little known Midwestern non-profit agency with a small staff. But eventually our internal talk created something new and dramatic in the outside world.

We became national leaders, eventually training thousands of people all over the nation about our innovations, writing books in our field, and enjoying large financial support from foundations, government, and donors.

I knew the reason for our success. It was the daily high-quality talk with all of our staff, volunteers, and partners. We were in a constant state of discovery and dynamic innovation. 

And my own potential as a leader emerged. After two decades, I launched a national leadership development business that allowed me to coach Presidential appointees and other top executives. They were often starved for high-quality talk, and I knew how to create it.

My personal relationships outside work prospered also as I learned about high-quality talk.

I was unable to bring high-quality talk into my marriage in a sustained way. As the boss at work, everybody had to talk about what I wanted to talk about. At home I was not able to persuade my wife that high-quality talk was what our marriage needed more than anything.

Our marriage ended in divorce.

My great good fortune was to meet Mary, my future wife, a woman who wanted to have high-quality talk and loved having it with me.

Because of our wonderful 17 years of vibrant talk, we have emerged into our individual potentials. On any given day we can tell you what the emergent learning issue is for ourselves and for each other. Our always-interesting dialogue focuses on these learning agendas.

We have become more and more skilled. Our learning curves are shorter now. Our learning has speeded up, and our awareness expands.

An example: for the past year, Mary and I talked every day about our self-pity. We didn’t have much of it left, but the remainder was buried deep in our unconscious and protected with brilliant rationalizations.

We have made exciting breakthroughs, squeezing the air out of our self-pity and victimization. Seeing what made our self-pity tick, and seeing how much our relationship has grown as we reduced it, we wrote a book about how to sustain poise, a state of consciousness absent of any self-pity.

Talking with Mary is life giving for me, as important as the food I eat and the air I breathe.

Assessing the Quality of Talk in Your Life

Here are some questions that can help you assess the quality of talk in your life:

  • To what extent is your daily talk with people characterized by: taking turns complaining? Safe exchanges about everyday matters? Telling stories about yourself that boost your ego? Playing the wise one by focusing on philosophy and other big ideas that you like to teach the world?
  • Are you talking with clarity about what wants to emerge in your life and the changes you will need to make to facilitate that emergence?
  • Do you have a vibrant, intimate learning partnership?

If you would like to have more high-quality talk in your life, here are some strategies to make it happen. 

1. Be the person you’re looking for. 

The person you’re looking for is alive, loving, and generous in relationships, interested in others, seeing potential everywhere. Be that person every day.

This method is guaranteed: practice your loving and investment in others, and you will draw to you the people you need.


2. Deepen the talk with someone already in your life.

If you already have a relationship with potential for greater intimacy—a spouse or friend—invite that person to join you at a deeper level of learning and development. Make it clear that you are offering a high-quality dialogue aimed at emergence.

If your timing is right, your friend or spouse will jump at the great opportunity you’re offering.

3. Find a group or professional who will be the learning partner you need. 

There are many groups and professionals that offer intimate talk about growth and development. Several of my friends find their high-quality talk with their sponsor in AA.

Another friend was unable to talk through problems with his wife but found high-quality talk in a men’s group at church. The result, he reports, is a higher quality dialogue with his wife.

If you want to throw yourself out of the nest, fly off with some high-quality talk.

Photo by kevin dooley

About Gary Stokes

Gary Stokes maps the universe of poise on his blog www.thepoisedlife.com. His book, Poise: A Warrior’s Guide, is a profound exploration into the nature of poise, how we lose it, and how we can sustain a sublime state of consciousness.

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