Acumen Presents: Krista Tippett on the Art of Conversation

Become wiser by learning to hold transformative conversations, ask generous questions and listen with presence
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  • Lectures 21
  • Length 1 hour
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English, captions
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 4/2016 English Closed captions available

Course Description

Our political debates, newspaper headlines, and internet comments are all too often stripped of nuance and a sense of shared humanity.  Too many public conversations are stuck in polarized language of confrontation and certainty.  We need new ways to foster dialogue with people across lines of religion, politics, ethnicity, and experience.

Since 2001 Krista Tippett has hosted conversations on the big questions of meaning for On Being, a radio program and podcast distributed to 400 public radio stations across the country.  A Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and author of the recently published Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, she models a conversational style that elicits wisdom and cultivates generous listening.  In 2014, she received the National Humanities Medal at the White House.  Her conversation partners have ranged from clergy to social activists to poets and civil rights leaders.  

In this breakthrough course, she challenges each of us to slow down and to listen. To embrace ambiguity. To find the difficult moments where real wisdom lies. This is a different kind of course, a master's take on reaching a deeper level of understanding. There are no quick answers here, no simple exercises. Instead, Krista will open your eyes (and ears) to a different way of engaging in the important conversations that can change everything.

Through a series of short video lessons, you'll learn about Krista's practices for becoming a generous listener and she'll impart lessons from some of the most skillful conversationalists of our time.  Krista will teach you how to identify “bad” or confrontational questions and move to a style of inquiry that elicits more wisdom.  She’ll uncover why moving towards “common ground” or “getting on the same page” should not actually be the goal of most conversations, and help you shift from caring only about issues to caring about the people you are conversing with.  You’ll leave the course with an understanding of how you can approach your next conversation with a renewed sense of wonder and humility, rather than certainty or absolutism.  Her collected wisdom will galvanize anyone looking to spark meaningful dialogue across lines of difference in the service of social change.

Note that this course consists of a set of short video lessons taught by Krista.  The course materials also include exercises and links to relevant free podcast interviews that she has conducted for her On Being radio program.  

What are the requirements?

  • This course is open to everyone

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Listen with presence
  • Ask more generous questions
  • Frame conversations with wonder and humility
  • Move beyond a public discourse of certainty or absolutism
  • Understand why achieving common ground should not always be the good
  • Learn how to hold more productive conversations in the service of social change

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is for anyone who wants to hold more transformative and productive conversations that shift old topics to new places

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: The Art of Asking Questions
Introduction to the Course

You can use this Course Conversation Board to introduce yourself to others taking the course and find a potential conversation partner.


You'll learn to identify and frame "beautiful questions" that draw out people's thoughts and honesty instead of the types of confrontational or "gotcha" questions so prevalent in our public discourse today.


You'll learn to differentiate between "simple questions" and "simplistic questions."  Krista will provide examples of the most powerful types of questions she's learned to ask from her own experience as a public radio show host.


You'll learn specific types of questions that you can pose to people who have opinions different.  You'll understand how to engage them in productive discourse that moves conversations about familiar debates to new and more thoughtful places.


This Conversation Starter will lead you through a series of exercises to distill what makes Krista's conversational style so unique.  You'll compare samples of her conversations to samples of other media interviews and more typical public discourse.  Then, you'll have the chance to brainstorm the types of conversation topics that you wish to thoughtfully discuss with others.

Section 2: The Art of Listening

Krista will teach you how to differentiate listening from being quiet.  She'll explain common misconceptions that we have about listening and share insights about how she has learned to listen with presence.


Drawing from her own experience as a public radio broadcaster, Krista will share how she makes her guests feel comfortable enough to engage in deep and intimate conversations about their spiritual lives.  She'll explain why she thinks hospitality is a virtue and her secrets to being a hospitable host of conversations.


Krista will coach you to understand the appropriate moments to bring your own experiences into conversations.  She'll help you learn to strike a balance between over-sharing or dominating the conversation and revealing enough of your own personal history and reactions to create natural and productive exchanges.


In this section of the course, Krista focused on ways to ask more generous and beautiful questions.  The exercises in Conversation Starter #2 are designed to help you stockpile examples of simple—but powerful—questions that you can incorporate into your own conversations.  You’ll also try your hand at reframing bad or simplistic questions. 

Section 3: Why We Need A New Type of Conversation

You'll learn why achieving "common ground" or "getting on the same page" should not actually be the goal of most conversations.  Krista advises us that learning how to confront ambiguity and leave some questions open will be essential to tackling our 21st century challenges.


In this lecture, you'll learn about the concept of "Bridge People" who are able to hold conversations across lines of difference and why they are so essential.


In this section of the course, Krista focused on listening. The exercises in Conversation Starter #3 will help you cultivate presence as a listener. You will explore concrete examples of how Krista brings a sense of presence to her own conversations, and be equipped with a preparation checklist to structure your own generous dialogues.  

Section 4: Lessons from Krista's Conversation Partners

Krista will explain what she learned from Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist, about how we can stay wise across our lifetimes and bring a sense of wonder to conversations.


Krista will explain what she learned from a conversation with Lyndon Eaves, a geneticist and Anglican priest, about the wisdom of the scientist and the wisdom of the mystic.  You'll learn to stay unafraid of what remains mysterious.


In this lecture, Krista will describe lessons that she learned from John Paul Lederach, Professor of International Peacebuilding, about why small groups are essential to creating social change.  She'll help you differentiate between the concepts of 'critical mass' and 'critical yeast' and explain why the latter is so essential to shifting people's perceptions.


Krista will share research findings from Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher, about how societal changes like redefining marriage and dispelling footbinding in China can happen.  She'll explain how these changes in perspective can happen over the course of a single generation in part because of the spread of new ideas through conversation.


In Conversation Starter #4 you will reexamine your conversational topic and map out what you know, what you think you know, and what remains mysterious.  This will give you some vibrant and interesting material to bring to your conversation partner for you to jointly discuss. You'll also be equipped with a collection of readings and resources from some of Krista's favorite conversational partners over the years so that you can dig deeper into their wisdom and insights.

Section 5: Towards Conversations that Advance Change

You'll understand why humility is an essential ingredient to bring to conversations.  Krista will share a personal story of how she learned to recognize the value of humility while attending Divinity School and raising an infant daughter.


In this lecture, Krista will summarize some of the key insights she has gained from years of practice as a conversationalist engaging some of the leading spiritual thinkers of our time.  She'll share why learning to speak differently can help us learn to live together differently.


In the final Conversation Starter of the course, it's time to get brave and reach out to others to invite them to a dialogue. We'll share some ideas for how you can get started finding everyday opportunities to have conversations with others. Then we'll give you chance to start discussions about what you learned from Krista with other participants in this course.

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Instructor Biography

+Acumen Courses, Global Learning Community for Social Change-Makers

Acumen is a non-profit changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. We invest patient capital in businesses whose products and services are enabling the poor to transform their lives. Founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001, Acumen has invested more than $88 million in 82 companies across Africa, Latin America and South Asia and was named one of Fast Company's Top 10 Most Innovative Not-for-Profit Companies in 2015. We also run +Acumen, a global learning community for social change-makers. Be an effective force for change with Acumen's online courses and chapters.

Instructor Biography

Krista Tippett, Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and host of On Being

KRISTA TIPPETT is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and New York Times bestselling author.  She is the host of On Being, a radio show and podcast distributed to more than 400 stations across the country.  On Being also consistently ranks among the top 50 podcasts on iTunes.  Krista is the author of Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, published in April, 2016.

In 2014, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by Barack Obama  for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence. On the air and in print, Ms. Tippett avoids easy answers, embracing complexity and inviting people of every background to join her conversation about faith, ethics, and moral wisdom."

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