Transforming Conversations

How much time and money does your organization lose because people are not able to have the tough conversations?

The important conversations that can have the most impact are the ones that people avoid. They may know the conversation needs to happen but hope that somebody else will initiate it or feel it’s not my job, or want to wait until the time is right. They make an attempt to have the conversation but sidestep the important issues. The question is; how much talking is happening   in  your organization? The talking that creates synergy builds relationships and inspires results. These conversations that never happen become the  elephant   in   the   room  that everyone is trying to avoid. That  elephant  gets more powerful with every communication that doesn’t happen or with every failed conversation. With every open and honest conversation the  elephant  gets smaller, putting the power not  in  the middle of  the   room  but in the people. Personal power is built one conversation at a time.

What blocks the real conversations from occurring?

What people often are not aware of is that all conversations occur within themselves first. Another words, you may think you are seeing people as they are but in truth you are seeing people as you are. It means that powerful conversations cannot occur until we challenge the perceptions we hold about ourselves and other people. Perceptions are the lens or filters that we see the world through and every person has a different set of lens that they operate out of. Real powerful conversations cannot occur until a person has some degree of awareness of who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, values and beliefs because that is what shapes their perceptions. We often assume that people think the same way we do or see things the same way but that is never the case, every person is different and until we challenge our assumptions important conversations cannot fully occur.

When people are afraid to tell the truth because of a potential negative reaction or not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings they are stopping the important conversation from occurring. When we don’t tell the truth people often know it. They feel the incompleteness and they see the same  elephant   in   the   room  but don’t know how to confront it. Important conversations require preparation, they should not be done on the fly or without self-reflection, only then can we look the  elephant  square  in  the eye and know how to approach it. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for your next important conversation:

· Why does the conversation need to happen?

· What would happen if we didn’t have the conversation?

· What’s the cost of not having the conversation?

· What do I want for the other person?

· What do I want for me?

· What are my feelings, opinions, and concerns about this particular issue?

· What are my feelings about this conversation?

Answering these questions gives us perspective and allows us to view the issue and the  elephant  from a different vantage point and have a conversation from the heart.

What Creates Powerful Conversations?

A powerful conversation involves a give and take not a one-way dialogue or lecture. The word conveys flow and equal exchange. Powerful conversations can only occur when people are exchanging equally. Real listening is what can create a powerful conversation, listening not just for the words that are being used but what’s not being said, awareness of body language and expressions. When we are able to fully listen we are able to understand and see things through a different set of lenses. Listening to understand builds bridges and values the other person.

Powerful conversations can occur in all situations. A supervisor giving a subordinate feedback on their behavior is a wonderful opportunity for a powerful conversation. Providing an opportunity to share their perception with no blame or faultfinding. Powerful conversations involve speaking the truth from the heart; they are direct and caring. When we are indirect  in  our communication we are not having a powerful conversation we are finding ways to skirt the issues and giving the  elephant   in   the   room  more power. The only way around an issue is to face it directly with compassion and understanding.

The Elements of a Powerful Conversation

· Speak the truth with understanding.

· Challenge your perceptions and the perceptions of those around you.

· Demonstrate personal responsibility and create openness for mutual responsibility.

· Speak with feeling, be vulnerable, and maintain your personal power and center.

. Know what you want from the conversation and from the relationship.

· Ask questions

· Change buts to ands

What’s Important?

Real conversations are a process they are not an event, Issues are not left hanging they are completed. That completion will often mean several conversations with mutual commitment from each person. Real communication cannot fully occur with only one dialogue, Powerful conversations require commitment, commitment to the relationship as well as oneself. Building the skills necessary for a powerful conversation don’t happen over-night and must continually be nurtured.

It can be easy to ignore the important issues or find reasons to procrastinate on having the important conversations but the big issues will never go away by themselves. When we decide to give power to the  elephant   in   the   room  things don’t get better, it is only when we claim our own power and have the conversations that change happens. Change sometimes isn’t easy and human nature will pull us back to the easy and safe way. The safe way involves staying where we are and avoiding the real important issues. We must be guardians of that and take charge, reclaim our power from the  elephant   in   the   room  and have those important conversations. Whether they be with a boss, subordinate, co-worker, spouse or child let us all step up to the plate and make a difference.