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Are we having smart conversations?


Team members gathered around a table

Enquire more, advocate less

To really understand what is happening in business but in any situation, we need to enquire more and advocate less. Only then will we get beneath superficial, and transactional conversations. And really start to understand the emotions and beliefs that underpin often entrenched positions.

The art of conversation

Conversation underpins all human interaction, whether that is between individuals or in groups. Whether it is spoken, or increasingly in the form of written interactions whose speed of exchange through the internet makes the written word real time.

We can all do social chat, which is the basis by which most of immediate transactional inter changes take place. Whether its through buying over the counter, talking about the weather, sport, or just the cursory salutation of friends, colleagues and family. Professionally, we get a bit deeper than that. The discourse is about facts, plans, strategies and other typically non-controversial topics. Most of us spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that we are good at this, and most importantly not wrong in what we say in the conversations.

The trouble with these levels of conversation is that we rarely engage with one another at any level, other than one that may be considered safe. Nothing superficially wrong with that, but in the process do we really get to find out what one another is really thinking? If the other party is an unsettled customer or an alienated employee do we really find out what they want? And in the process risk losing a sale, an account, or turn a valuable company resource into one that is underperforming or worst at risk of leaving?

Great communicators

The key for the great communicator is not the ability to talk the talk.

But to question, listen, and most importantly to digest and reflect on what they are being told. How often are we so busy advocating our own views that we fail to really hear what is being said to us?

In the current political environment it appears that are all now so busy advocating our positions, that we have forgotten to ask the important questions of others. Why do you think that? Is there a basis on which you might think differently? Would I be able to help you? and many more.

The problem is that without the preparedness to lessen our grip on our own certainties, it is difficult to ask the same of others. To listen well requires our preparedness to follow and to take time to reflect on the reasoning of others. But if we can we start to understand at another level – and that is emotional level of conversation. Then we may start to comprehend the rational, emotions and beliefs that underpin what if being said to us.

Listening and understanding

If at we can understand the emotional issues in our dealings, then our engagement with others is stronger. The customer complaint that seems intractable may not be when understood in the context of an over worked client short of time and acknowledgement. An employee struggling with domestic issues may not be failing when offered some empathy and help to prioritise and who in turn may be your greatest asset.

Do we ask? Not enough? Do we say less and listen more, rarely. To enquire more and advocate less would do us all a lot of good…politicians, sales people, and supervisors take heed. Certainly, there is a time to speak. But when you do, offer your points clearly, concisely, without repetition and without fear. Say it is as it is and if we are misunderstood, remember that may be our own problem.

But better still, ask, listen, ingest and reflect – is this my own problem that the other person views are uncomfortable to me? Why are they saying what they say? What can I do to understand better and react in a way that is helpful seemingly to them but ultimately to us both?

The better question may just be worth ten times the smarter answer.

If you could benefit from a Free of Charge Business Health Check, feel free to contact Rob Andrew on:

Mobile: 07854 872474