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The Effects of Light on Conversations

Q: What creates an environment for deeper conversations?
A: More, Less, or Different Light

A novelist and an architect have both pointed out the importance of light on how we think, how we share, and where we do it.

Novelist Jeanette Winterson:

“I have noticed that when all the lights are on, people tend to talk about what they are doing — their outer lives. Sitting round in candlelight or firelight, people start to talk about how they are feeling – their inner lives. They speak subjectively, they argue less, there are longer pauses.

Source: Why I Adore the Night 

The architect Christopher Alexander:

“Light on two sides of every room. When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty.”

“The importance of this pattern lies partly in the social atmosphere it creates in the room. Rooms lit on two sides, with natural light, create less glare around people and objects; this lets us see things more intricately; and most important, it allows us to read in detail the minute expressions that flash across people’s faces, the motion of their hands … and thereby understand, more clearly, the meaning they are after. The light on two sides allows people to understand each other.”

Source: A Pattern Language

There’s a subtle pride in most of us that assumes our decisions are our own making–we downplay how influenced we are by our environment. Light alone can have a huge impact on our thoughts and conversations.

Actionable Questions: Is there a better place to have an important meeting? Will the current lights inspire conversation about “doing” or “feeling”?

Thanks to James Clear for pointing me to these resources.