Monday, April 28, 2014

Conversationally Speaking

Despite technologies making us more available and providing us with the means to connect with others around the globe, actual conversations are our greatest tool for forming true connections with others.  If our conversations serve as a means of connecting us with others, then it stands to reason that the type and nature of the conversation drives the nature of the connection.

However, creating powerful and positive connections require more than merely talking at someone else.  It requires true engagement.  Our words can impact others, sometimes in unexpected ways.  Words can trigger emotional responses that are based on the individual's past history and baggage.  Each experience lays an additional layer onto existing perspectives, becoming more embedded in the psyche.

In looking to connect with others through our conversations, it is important to establish a foundation of trust. Scientists have determined that there are powerful conversational rituals that serve to 'prime' the brain to establish trust, to enter into partnerships with others.  Specific neuro-chemicals get released into the brain that signal the trust/distrust response, the brain picking up those messages in roughly .07 seconds.

In her book 'Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & get Extraordinary Results', Judith Glaser defines Conversational Intelligence as the intelligence that is hardwired into every human, allowing us to navigate and connect successfully with others.  She outline 3 levels of conversations, each with its own purpose and result.

  1. Transactional - Informs.  This is the common Tell/Ask format, where we are usually looking for give and take.
  2. Positional - Persuades.  This is more the Advocate/Inquire format, where we are generally looking to establish win/win collaborative results.
  3. Transformational - Co-Creates.  This involves more of a process of mutual exchange, where we share our expertise, looking to partner with each other.
In general, in attempting to ensure we build trust during our conversations, we must focus on 
  • Truly listen to the other party, without judgment (this is the same principle as Stephen Covey so aptly named in his 7 Habits... Seek first to understand)
  • Ask questions to further your understanding, not as a means to get someone where you want them to go. Leading others through your questions leaves others feeling manipulated.
  • Watch for signals/cues from others indicating their response.  if you aren't getting the desired reaction then reframe and redirect your approach, don't push.
Technology may be great at keeping people informed, but it takes actual conversations with others to establish and build the trust needed to feel truly connected.  Use the tips above to help you strengthen your Conversational Intelligence and begin forging stronger connections and networks.  

If you are interested in reading more about the concept of Conversational Intelligence, then you might want to pick up Judith Glaser's book below.  It's worth the read!

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