Developing a generative mindset involves a shift in being. We expand our awareness and open up possibilities for creating new contexts. We transform our relationship to language from being describers of some objective-knowable world to being designers of reality. Beyond new content and style, we realize the power of perception to alter contexts.

In my last blog post, I examined this mindset, the source of generativity with a set of principles, and the language of action.

This blog begins with language – specifically, speech acts. I then offer a model for generative communication to cultivate generative conversations.

The Power of Intention

A leader generates a credible interpretation of the present, declares the possibility of a different future, and is able to generate trust in others.
Without language, these actions could not be performed.
– Fernando Flores

Here, Flores illustrates the power of intentional speaking and the role it plays in humans becoming co-creators.

In linguistics, a speech act is an utterance defined in terms of a speaker’s intention and the effect it has on the listener. The resulting speech act theory (language-action paradigm or the pragmatics of language) reveals practical ways to improve coordination and effective action via tools such as speech acts (see the GRID in the previous blog).

Flores’ work details “conversations for action” that increase performance, enhance trust, and deepen relatedness. With increased awareness, we become present to qualities of actions, which, when spoken with intention, transform our listening into action.

Speech Acts in Daily Life

In his 2013 book, Conversations For Action and Collected Essays: Instilling a Culture of Commitment in Working Relationships, Flores develops six commonly used speech acts that we listen for and work with:

  1. Assertions acknowledge what’s true or false. We provide evidence for a shared, reliable, and observable basis for our interpretation to take action.
  2. Assessments acknowledge what’s valid or invalid. Preparation for action involves discerning evidence that frames interpretations of and attitudes toward action.
  3. Declarations create a context for coordinating action. A new context for action fulfills the concerns of a community that listens to the declaration and registers it effectively.
  4. Requests bring forth a future. With a commitment to action on the part of the listener, the speaker expects that a concern will be addressed.
  5. Promises fulfill future actions. With a commitment to action on the part of the speaker, the listener expects that a concern will be addressed.
  6. Offers involve explicit or implicit requests to fulfill promises, with a commitment to a new future action on the part of both parties.

Consider how speech acts show up in our personal and professional lives, and the ecosystem of language (map below).

EXAMPLE 1: A client requests a product. We assert that we have it in stock and promise to deliver it at a specific time to the client’s office. When the client receives it, she declares dissatisfaction with the product and assesses that it does not meet her expectations.

EXAMPLE 2: Your daughter requests permission to borrow the car to attend a party. She asserts that the party is at a specific place, promises to return at a specific time, and offers to fill up the gas tank. We grant her request, and she declares her gratitude.

Click to Enlarge

Generative Communications: A Pathway to Commitment

Generative communication reveals a paradigm shift. The power of our word creates a world that doesn’t yet exist. This involves embracing our humanity:

  • With the quality of our intention (grounded commitment) and attention (spacious listening) from a depth of responsibility (authentic disclosure).
  • We relate to our word (speaking) with integrity (the whole) to create future action (coordination) and the willingness to be accountable (complete) for conditions of satisfaction (possibility).

In generative conversations, we become more, as detailed here by Theory U scholars at the Presencing Institute:

Generative conversations … generate shared meaning and lead to action. They involve an authentic exchange of sharing and inquiry, leading to the emergence of new knowledge or understanding that could not have been created individually.

To recap, generativity means giving birth to something that emerges from a conversation. You feel more connected, understood, seen, heard, and experienced. You’ve been recreated beyond any label or concept – acknowledged as a legitimate being. That is generative communication.

If you feel disconnected, isolated, or stuck after a conversation, then you’re not in the realm of generativity.

Five Pathways for Generative Communications

In a generative communication model, our capacity for reflective awareness, humility, and openness enables us to rest in the undivided flow of life. Beyond communication as transactional, informative, or performative, language becomes a medium of creation through which to evoke possibility and cultivate emergence in a transformative realization.

The following five pathways develop the underlying commitment necessary for generative communications:

1 – Cultivating Reflective Awareness

More than self-reflection, a reflective mindset arises from relaxed awareness to be intentional rather than reactive. Being reflective involves:

  1. Developing spaciousness for relaxed awareness to navigate the tension between confusion and clarity.
  2. Discerning distractions that enable habitual reflexivity to constrain a deeper understanding.
  3. Appreciating the unlearning/letting go dynamic to develop grounding.

2 – Acknowledging Responsibility

We embrace a level of responsibility for our intentions and reactions, and for the power of our word to co-create our world. Acknowledging responsibility involves:

  1. Embracing your intentions, speaking and listening, and claiming your past, present, and future, thus shaping your thoughts, feelings, responses, and results.
  2. Recognizing and dissolving defensive, avoidance, and survival strategies that constrain action.
  3. Strengthening integrity to produce authentic agreements.

3 – Embracing Complexity

With an awareness of and space for creative thinking, we learn to dance with and discern the undivided flow of life. Embracing complexity involves:

  1. Probing evidence, conditions, concerns, and backgrounds that shape an interdependent view of situations and circumstances.
  2. Recognizing limitations and fragmentation that constrain change/flow.
  3. Developing critical and creative thinking to realize greater integration and freedom.

4 – Inviting Inquiry

With inventive questioning and puzzling, we discover creative human faculties that transform our perceptions and understanding. Inviting inquiry involves:

  1. Practicing ontological humility to question views and surface assumptions that develop insights and new perspectives.
  2. Discerning expectations, attachments, deeply held positions, and fixed beliefs that constrain listening.
  3. Developing space for receptivity to realize the undivided flow of life.

5 – Granting Being

Through distinctions in language, we discover a radically different way of seeing and being. Granting being involves:

  1. Cultivating openness to be with the unknown and presence possibility.
  2. Discerning resistance and blind spots that constrain our view of possibility.
  3. Listening from potential to engage in co-creation.

What Happens in the Generative Process?

Generative communication unlocks the context of being human in language. This intentional and interactive process generates a mutual commitment and shared meaning to co-create.

  1. We learn from the body in motion by connecting with the innate wisdom of the somatic mind.
  2. We find new paths to presencing by creating an internal space for physical, emotional, mental, and energetic experiences.
  3. We become aware of whole intelligence when we open ourselves to possibility and curiosity.
  4. We learn to take the space to awaken our voice.
  5. We train the discursive mind to cultivate intention and use language to find words that give value to the experience of the body.
  6. We expand our possibilities for responding in the face of daily challenges.
  7. We experience grounding and openness to empower creative flow.
  8. We identify, integrate, and transcend positions in our complex identity.

The power of the generative process involves the authentic source of our being. From that space, we evoke possibility, realize transformative experiences, and design worlds.

We move ourselves and others – not as objects via contrived will, but from being a commitment that flows from our creative self.

Reading Time: 5.5 min. Digest Time: 7.5 min.

View our related blogs:


To join our Learning Community, CLICK HERE to receive our Wisdom Weekly Digest.


Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist psychology to sustain contemplative practice.