Okay – this post is designed around the workplace, but can easily be applied to conversations you have with your loved ones, at volunteer meetings, anywhere where conversations take place.
You have been in a meeting all morning. It’s the same meeting you attended last week, the week before that, and perhaps for many weeks. While its intended purpose is both updating department progress and planning future projects, you begin to wonder how the interactions you are witnessing are serving the stated purpose. People are talking at one another, over one another, sniping and ego building. There does not seem to be a lot of listening going on. Kim just shared the same idea Stuart shared two hours ago and they loved it. Two hours ago, Mark derided and criticized it and gave a litany of reasons why it would not work. Your inner soul screams – Get me out of here!
Your mind wanders – and you begin a question spiral. How will any of this action create the future you all claim to want?
How do we create better workplaces? (home life?)
By creating stronger relationships between the people involved.
How do we create stronger relationships between the people involved?
By treating one another with respect.
How do we treat one another with respect?
By speaking our truth out loud in ways that others can hear.
How do we tell our truth in ways that others can hear?
By not assuming our truth is “the” truth and by listening to their truth openly.
How do we listen openly?
By coming to the conversation clean, with no need to win, just accepting it as it unfolds.
How do we come to a conversation with no need to win it?
By learning how to engage in authentic conversations.
Just because we can talk does not mean that we are able to engage in conversations that truly create our desired outcomes. Effective conversations require different skills – a heightened awareness about how to make effective requests, extend offers, share facts as distinct from opinions, and most importantly, make and keep commitments.
One other critical element required is committed listening. We must listen to the words but also between the words – in the space – to discern meaning that enables everyone to work together successfully. When we just hear the words our interpretations could compromise our ability to perform. This appears to be what was going on in the meeting described above.
Organizations are groups of people who work together and focus their energies on shared goals. Commitment is the key here. Commitment to the agreed upon goal allows authentic conversations because the energies are truly focused on the goal and the ego games are reduced. If you are not experiencing this level of conversational competence in your organization, there is leadership work to be done! If the goals of the organization are not aligned with your goals, what are you doing there?
As you engage in conversations over the next few days, think about the questions below. Consider your answers carefully and reflect on what you need to do before the conversation so that you can come to the conversation clean.
- Is there real agreement to the goal(s)?Or is your agreement predicated on some other need, like keeping your job in a tight economy?
- How does your level of commitment affect your performance?
- What offers have you made? Can you see ways that you can step up and offer your skills?
- What requests do you need to make? Where do you need to ask others for help?
- What do you need to let go of? What resentment are you carrying around that will slow down progress?
- Where do you need to speak your truth? How can you say it well – in ways that enable everyone to move forward and be successful?
So – what say you?
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