In the first instance of this series, we broke down more effective meetings. This time, we will talk all about just that — talking! Many people muse about the difficulty of having effective challenging conversations.
This can be as simple as telling the truth with honesty and respect, and sharing ideas without fear of reprisal or being written off as unrealistic or too “soft”. In order to have productive conversations, where everyone is present in mind, body, and spirit, we need to get to a dynamic that changes everything.
The quality of our communication and conversations has an impact on the quality of our meetings, decisions, and implementation. How? Read along!
First of all, let me introduce you to the I-WE-It model.
We are always meeting because we want to achieve something (IT). And whatever we are doing, we need to do it together. Plus, this might not be the last time!
So, remember: every conversation is an opportunity to increase or decrease trust (we) and to feel better (or not) about ourselves in the process. The more you create a virtuous circle, the more effective you will be.
The first step, before even beginning to deliver the content or topic of conversation, is to create the connection and context (who, why, and where). We need to connect with people there so that everyone can more quickly listen to others and express their concerns and ideas.
That way, even if there is a disagreement, everyone can feel like they are in it together. At the “We” level, any conversation is an opportunity to increase trust and collaboration. That way, no matter what the outcome, people can feel connected, respected and empowered.
At the “I” level, it is checking into whether we feel valued and that we can grow and express who we are. This can even be applied to solo time — what is the quality of the conversations you have with yourself?
Sacrificing the “I” or “We” for the short-term “It” creates an unhealthy dynamic, and if there is no inbuilt trust then for the next conversation and negotiation we might need to have sooner than later. It is important also to remember that we cannot control the appearance of thoughts, emotions, and feelings — these just “happen”.
If we voice them literally, we can unintentionally escalate conflict, hurt relationships, and feel bad. If we don’t voice them or tell a “cosmetic” truth, we never address the real problem. The relationship is hollowed and we keep the toxins without ourselves. Often the task is negatively impacted as well — and worse, the “I” energy leaks out anyway. The only way through (and the most effective short and long-term) is to have an authentic conversation. So what does that entail?
Having Authentic Effective Conversations
First, understand that the only reason you have a toxic thought is because something that you care about feels at risk. Once you have acknowledged a toxic thought, you have 3 options:
- Spill it out (just say it). This is the reactive level — our first reaction.
- Swallow it (don’t say it). This is the superficial level — what we want others to think about us.
- Distill it (transform the toxicity into a learning opportunity). This is the core truth — who we really are; our true BE-ing.
Underlying reactivity, there is something of value that is at stake. In order to distill your core truth, you need to ask yourself:
- What really matters to me?
- Why is this a concern to me?
- What is at stake for me?
- What do I really want?
The core truth is always honesty and respect. Try out these practices above, and watch how much more effective your communication becomes — through the quality of outcomes of conversations, and the quality of your relationships.