This photo says it all. Or does it?


If you were raised to be polite to the adults around you and smile at people you don’t respect then the images of child sexual abuse advocate and former AOTY Grace Tame meeting Prime Minister Scott Morrison would have made you flinch.

a man smiling and a woman not smiling

For so many of us, myself included, face-to-face conversations are costumed in politeness or jocularity when what we long to say may be exactly the opposite. Grace Tame’s non-verbal conversation dispensed with the disguise.

It can take decades for some of us to learn to speak our minds. Over a lifetime many of us will never master this. Instead we seek comfort in a cloak of politeness and acceptance.

If you live or work with someone who constantly talks over you, interjects with a better story (I call this person a Topper), uses belittling language or just doesn’t listen, it can feel like a recurring nightmare.

In the last few years I’ve observed my own conversations and realised that this reticence I’d been brought up with has held me back. I’ve described the process of throwing off reticence and shaking off the numbness in a new book called Rebel Talk. (I didn’t imagine someone like Grace Tame being my inner conversation rebel, but heck, why not?)

Rebel Talk describes a handy acronym to help with this process of rediscovering and rebooting your conversations:

R- Readiness
E- Empathy
B-Be Curious (ask questions)
E-Engage Attention (listening)
L-Lead the Way

I wrote the book (released next month) because our conversations – in the public and private space – seem more fractured than ever. I wondered whether, if we each pay more attention to our own conversations, we might improve our relationships one by one.

As I said earlier, Tame’s conversation with Morrison was non-verbal. In the world of Rebel Talk, here’s a scenario I’ve imagined. After the infamous photo-op a conversation’s arranged between Grace and Scott. It’s heated but both parties take something away from it. After further conversations, a door opens. Ever so slightly, something shifts. The ripple affects other people.

The problem with this scenario (though I don’t know for sure) is that no actual conversation took place.

Alan Alda, actor and master communicator said ‘I have this radical idea that I’m not really listening unless I’m willing to be changed by you.’

When was the last time a conversation changed your mind?

Pre-order Rebel Talk here:

(Image credit: NCA Newswire/Gary Ramage)