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  • Jodie Harburt

Connected Conversations Istanbul

Connection? Don't underestimate it!

Meaningful connection is the most enriching part of our lives and a lack of it is cause for much distress and quite likely the root cause of the predicament we face.

When we look at the motivations, desires and priorities of humankind it is apparent that we are neurobiologically wired to be connected.

It is with this knowledge that I have started hosting Connected Conversations Events here in Istanbul. There are so many of us in this amazing city, yet we are quite disconnected and sometimes very lonely; certainly, as a society we are dysfunctional yet capable of much more! Even within our own close groups many of us lament the lack of meaningful discussion or the opportunity to be honest and to simply be ourselves. Providing a basis for conversation may seem trivial, but it can help us build up ourselves and sense of community and unity despite our differences and the difficulties of these times.

In fact, it is precisely these difficulties that prompt us to find ways to build up empathy and resilience within our communities and beyond.

The Connected Conversation events are designed around a meal, in the case of our dinner on the 13th of December we are being hosted by Chef Mark Mourad Hammami At the Irish Pub James Joyce.* Mark is providing us with his delicious menu to choose from and alongside that we provide a Conversation Menu which consists of a selection of well-considered questions. These questions are designed to get us beyond small talk and reveal our art of deep conversation, listening and self-discovery.

We specifically divide into pairs who are preferably strangers to each other. I asked Charles O’Malley who started the movement in England "why just pairs of strangers? why not a circle of many?" And he explained (patiently) that the level of intimacy required for interpersonal enquiry is best reached when in pairs, and the 'stranger' factor takes away the need to carry pretences or prejudice leaving you free to delve deep without judgement and assist without ulterior motive.

The format is as easy and relaxed as each participant wants it to be so an ideal opportunity to overcome any conversational shyness and to have fun with a subject that matters to them.

Our intention is to use this format in different settings such as within vulnerable groups and in rural villages were the ‘imece’ (or potluck) culture continues, but can benefit from enriched conversation to truly thrive. I'd also love to host a Turkish language event at a meyhane or fish restaurant which could add another dimension to the traditional raki table chat. Whatever the setting people benefit from gathering around a shared meal and the act of sharing is a catalyst for emerging collective wisdom.

We presently co-host Women’s Circle Gatherings every month with Elena Kiyaeva-Korkmaz and this is another format that invites bonding, friendship, compassion and personal contemplation to emerge. These types of gatherings are something that we have lost over the years, so to reignite that communal flame is a very satisfying and heart-warming thing to be involved with. What is more, each of these gatherings has a momentum of their own, the tools can be learnt (and we are hosting courses to assist) and the participants can then go off and create more Circle or Connected Conversations gatherings within their own communities, thus spreading and facilitating a rise in the level of our collective conscious.

The idea for the dinners has been around for many years and can be said to have started with Theodore Zeldin, founder of The Oxford Muse, Palestinian historian, philosopher and Oxford scholar. He had the idea as part of his investigation into the power of conversation. His Muse Conversations in different formats from Dinners in England to Coffeehouse Conversations in Vienna have been held in many countries worldwide and are inclusive of all kinds of people whether they be multinational corporations, doctors, students or the homeless.

Charles O'Malley was inspired to adopt the dinner format after he noticed that we lack the elementary connections; first from our own head to our own heart and then across the table to the head and heart of others and it is the head to heart connection which prompts the core capacity for us as a species to live with Curiosity and Compassion and onwards to Courage.

Charles has worked in the field of social and environmental change for 15 years and works for the UN (in the area of sustainable development) and noticed that those in power through business or politics often spend too little time becoming connected with themselves, others and our planet before making decisions of magnitude and impact. In a world where we all lack time and we are quite literally running out of it, Charles figured we can all put aside a few hours to dine and chat.

At home my family and I have been trying out different questions to see whether they ‘work’ in terms of provoking us to speak openly, two things emerged:

1: Just having the chance to answer a good question opens up our inner eye. We were able to better understand our own motivations and to decide what to do next. We were all more positive and aware after doing just one 20-minute question!

2: Listening is as important (or more so) than talking. When you set the timer for 15 or 20 minutes for someone else to talk you have a secret expectation that it might be boring and that it might seem to take forever, but if you listen deeply you find yourself in the unique position of journeying with the speaker into their world and a whole new way of being and seeing. The times passes very quickly but despite this we gain a richness of understanding. The capacity to think with another’s head is a gift that we are sorely lacking.

Our culture has become fiercely competitive and individualistic, this has left us yearning for deeper connection. These sessions give us the tools to ask good questions, listen with attention and to speak with intention, we learn to communicate openly and to contemplate others with an open mind and heart. All of which add up to the joy of quality connectivity.

Join us in Taksim Balo Sokak James Joyce Irish Pub on the 13th of December and indulge with us.

(As time is short contact me directly for information if you would like to attend!)

*Photo thanks to Jenny Andersson of We Activate the Future and taken at a Connected Conversations Dinner hosted in the UK.

* Mark Mourad Hammami, at the James Joyce

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