Conversations have the power to create, motivate, stabilise or disintegrate decades of progress just as fast. Not so long ago, I did a piece on our world being in a power struggle to be heard from our inability to listen which has largely destroyed relationships on every level.
It got me thinking quite a lot on our approach to conversations. To build the narrative I solicited the feedback from over thirty-five thousand online participants with the question:
How do you have conversations with people you do not want to have them with?
The responses were large, sometimes heated while most tried to steer within the general rational of workplace culture: Look a person in the eye, prepare ahead, be respectful, listen, show you’re listening by repeating what you’ve heard and so on. I found this particularly interesting because if you are in fact listening, you would not need to focus on the gesture of showing you’re listening. While 45% of the participants would down-right try to avoid, ghost or ignore the encounter altogether. I was astounded to learn how little we all truly understand about the relationship of conversations. What they serve and what they could serve.
To Quote Former Chilean Minister of Finance -Fernando Flores;
‘An organisation’s results are determined through webs of human commitments, born in webs of human conversation.’’
Now imagine your company’s organisational chart incorporating the intentional use of conversation as a core process to cultivate the collective intelligence needed to create business and social value. This becomes particularly important today when the most important questions we face are complex ones that require us to develop new ways of thinking together in order to foster positive and reasonable change, creativity, and understanding.
Today, we’re going to go a few steps further to narrow in on that by developing the mental framework over three critical areas, for having and using conversations as an approach to establish and maintain social ties whether in business, self or society.
1. Recognise Your Behaviour:
You cannot go into a conversation with someone and hope to achieve much if you aren’t willing to set aside yourself, your pre-existing perceptions, beliefs and personal agenda (whats-in-it-for-me kind-of-attitude) and allow the openness of listening with your entirety to understand.
Why? Because we need to develop the mental capacity to see our actions, and ourselves beyond the labyrinth of what we want, what we think and feel…before, during and after a conversation presents itself.
We need to see what we’ve been doing? What worked? What didn’t? What we need to stop immediately and what we should be doing.
2. Recognise the Type, Intent and Requirement of Conversation you are Involved.
And I say involved, because this is a relationship you are trying to build, mend, understand and grow from.
Whether it’s joint, competitive or other, you cannot go into a conversation with the right frame of mind if you’re not privy to one: the intent / and two: what your role within the relationship of that conversation requires of you.
An example I often use is striking the balance between a shift response and a support response.
For instance, consider a conversation with a friend or colleague and they’ve just told you, -‘I feel hungry,’ and in response, you shift the narrative to your own in a reply, I ate earlier. Whereas, a support response might look like ‘When last did you have something to eat?’ Prompting continuing conversation and creating a supportive and direct relation with the owner of that message.
Today, if you listen closely, you’ll realise much of the conversations we have on a daily basis surround shift responses and as a result, develops into a power struggle to be heard.
3. Do not go into a conversation with your mind-set to solve everything.
You will be disappointed and develop unnecessary mental road-blocks for future conversations. Instead, seek to develop a relationship that encourages continual conversation allowing both or all parties to foster better understanding. This is particularly necessary for conversations involving values, where facts and truth don’t always matter.
Remember, Everything that we do starts with a conversation.
Whether it’s the pep talk you give yourself before a big moment, your opening line to a new relationship, a job opportunity, closing a big deal or propositioning one. It all starts with some form of conversation.
But entering with the right frame of mind and attitude can be the difference between a disaster or a delight. So, visualise and practise these three mental frameworks as you navigate your conversations, build your relationships and maintain ties.