145: The Art of Conversation with Stuart Chittenden, Founder of Squishtalks

In today’s world, we can reach out to almost anybody through social media, an email or a website. Our co-workers are just an IM or text away. But despite this ability to digitally connect, we are lonelier than ever. In the past 50 years, rates of loneliness have doubled in the U.S. Former U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy likens loneliness to a public health crisis, and the workplace as one of the primary places where it can get better — or worse. 

Today’s guest, Stuart Chittenden, believes conversation can help. Stuart has focused his time and efforts to Squishtalks, a conversation social practice he founded in 2010. Promoting the art of conversation in the belief that conversation helps us to live well and work better, Squishtalks has collaborated with numerous community groups and businesses.

According to Stuart, conversation is the bridge that connects our individual selves with those of people around us. Conversation enables us to recognize the humanity in others, and thereby in ourselves. In our most fundamental experience of being human, every one of us yearns for connection, which conversation helps to enable.

In this interview, we start out talking about a community project called “a couple of 830 mile long conversations,” which received Humanities Nebraska’s largest grant award in 2015. In an RV, Stuart adventured for four weeks along side roads and among small towns to talk with Nebraskans, discovering the lives, cultures and stories of people he met.

Stuart also explains the principles and practices of conversation that foster human connection, how these conversations are intrinsic to personal wellbeing but are missing from wellness programs and conversation considerations for extroverts and introverts.

Thank you to our sponsor, Workplace Money Coach. Workplace Money Coach’s 4-week, Living Paycheck to Purpose financial empowerment program, helps employees address the root causes of their financial challenges so they can better align their financial choices with their purpose and the life goals that matter most to them. You can find out more at http://www.workplacemoneycoach.com/. Shane’s email: shane@workplacemoneycoach.com

Interview highlights (with timestamps):
  • [7:43] Stuart’s project – a couple of 830 mile long conversations
  • [12:55] Why the art of conversation has gotten lost
  • [17:15] How we can get back to having conversations
  • [23:10] Ways to start a conversation (and why Stuart is reluctant to offer questions to use)
  • [26:30] What happens if you can’t get someone to open up
  • [30:30] How conversations are missing from wellness programs and what to do about it
  • [40:30] Conversation considerations for extroverts and introverts
Mentioned in this episode:

Interview with Jason Lauritsen

Interview with Shane Robson-Smith

Sherry Turkle for Alone, Together and Reclaiming Conversation

Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy talking about the loneliness epidemic in the Harvard Business Review 

The $300billion cost to US business because of stress per this EKU study.

One study that reflects how authentic, deep conversation can support healthy relationships and wellbeing.

https://storycorps.org/

Susan Cain – Quiet

Stuart’s info and resources:

https://squishtalks.com/

Lives Radio Show

Listening to Employees paper

Conceptual Guide to the Art of Conversation paper

Full Bio:

Born in sight of England’s Canterbury Cathedral, Stuart has called Omaha home since 2004.

Formerly a London lawyer and an Omaha brand consultant, since 2016 he has focused his time and efforts to Squishtalks, a conversation social practice he founded in 2010. Promoting the art of conversation in the belief that conversation helps us to live well and work better, Squishtalks has collaborated with numerous community groups and businesses.

One significant community project was “a couple of 830 mile long conversations,” which received Humanities Nebraska’s largest grant award in 2015. In an RV, Stuart adventured for four weeks along side roads and among small towns to talk with Nebraskans, discovering the lives, cultures and stories of people he met.

Stuart also collaborates with creativity expert Dan Gilbert using design thinking to help individuals and organizations creatively realize their best futures. Stuart’s poetry and other writing has appeared in several literary journals.

Instagram: @squishtalks and @LivesRadioShow

Facebook: @squishtalks and @LivesRadioShow

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuartchittenden/