The Commodity Conversation

Too often these days we engage in commodity conversations. A commodity conversation is one where two people meet and talk. One of the two people is a person with a clear need to ask or request something of the other person–maybe it’s an introduction to someone else, a potential job opportunity, or another such thing. Whatever it is, the object has a fundamental theme: it will benefit the person who’s asking, whether in the form of money, status, or simply a step closer to either.

The point is that this person wants something specific out of the conversation. The entire exchange is a pretext to the key “ask.” At this point both the conversation and the relationship have been reduced to the level of a commodity.

Have you ever been involved in a commodity conversation? You might have been in either situation, be it the “asker” or the “askee.”

I know that I’ve been on both sides of this. As the askee, my guard automatically goes up. I’ll weigh the thing asked of me, judge as to whether I can do it or not, and maybe will measure the cost to me.

As the asker, I intensely dislike this sort of exchange. It cheapens far too much of what should be a thoroughly human, humane, and humanistic period of time between myself and the other person.

The commodity conversation is one of the sadder expressions of 21st century life becoming overly commercialized, marketized, and frankly, capitalized.

I’m happy to report that I just returned from a meeting that on the surface could easily have slipped into the commodity conversation. Instead, and with the participation of both my colleague and me, the dialogue was simply something between good, genuine acquaintances.