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What is the Conversation Cycle?

What is the Conversation Cycle?

What is the Conversation Cycle?

Definition: The Conversation Cycle is a model which shows how we can use four interrelated communication skills - informing, inviting, listening, acknowledging - to get the best results from all our conversations.

Conversations are an opportunity for people to share information, ideas and emotions. Ideally, everyone in the conversation should be cycling through each of the four stages, so that, as the speaker is "informing" and "inviting", the others are "listening" and "acknowledging".

Then people swap roles, so that, when the conversation is finished, everyone has completed the "conversation cycle".

Let us examine each of the four elements of the conversation cycle.


Informing is when speakers verbalise their thoughts, ideas, opinions and feelings.

Speakers should think first, and then speak.

Many people have the bad habit of verbalising their thought process as they speak.

Consequently, they are not strictly "communicating their ideas and opinions". Instead they are letting others listen-in on their thought process as they struggle to form their ideas and opinions.

Instead of giving a running commentary on your thought process, slow down and figure out what you really want to say. Think before you speak. Do not blurt-out ill formed ideas.


Invite is when the speaker pauses and invites comments or questions on the content they have already expressed.

Many speakers talk too much and for too long, without pausing to invite comments.

This is a mistake, and the conversation becomes a "monologue", where a single person hogs the conversational limelight.

Good conversationalists know when to stop talking and invite comment.

Now let us look at the other two complementary communication cycle skills.


There are two forms of listening: Passive and Active.

Passive listening: Many people are passive: they allow their minds to wander. True listening is an active thought process. It takes effort.

Active listening: Active listening is a fully conscious attempt to understand what the speaker is saying.

When you are listening, look at the persons face, and try to visualise what they are saying.

If you actively try to visualise what you are hearing, your comprehension will double, and you will, by implication, complement the speaker, by doing them the honour of actively listening.


Acknowledge is affirming to the speaker your understanding (though not necessarily your agreement) of what has been said.

Acknowledgement can come in many forms:

"You're wrong!" is not a good way to acknowledge an idea you disagree with. "I understand." is a better way to acknowledge an idea you don't agree with.

"I agree", is a good way to acknowledge an idea you do agree with.

Whether agreement is gained or not, the people now swap roles: The original "informer-inviter" becomes the "listener- acknowledger" and vice-versa.

And so, the conversation cycle continues.

Further reading: How to be a good conversationalist.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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