The most important conversations you’re not having are the conversations you are avoiding. Perhaps you expect negative fallout with the other person, and that thought makes you slightly nauseous. Or you have no desire to shine a flashlight on your own shortcomings. In her book Fierce Conversations, veteran coach and facilitator Susan Scott addresses the importance of the whole truth in work and at home, and she tells you how to bring more of it forward.
Scott says there are four goals for this type of interaction:
- To interrogate the truth
- To provoke learning
- To tackle your toughest challenges
- To enrich relationships
What is the truth, anyway? You wear your goggles and your team members wear their own. You can look at the same situation as everyone else and interpret it in a completely different way. It’s as though, as Scott puts it, you’re all on a beach ball and you all live on different stripes. The manufacturing folks live on a blue stripe, and they see things in blue terms. Finance lives on the green stripe, and to finance, everything is filtered through a financial perspective. And so on.
Learning from conversation
Unfortunately, for many leaders the perceived measure for effective communication is how well and how often the he or she disseminates information to the team. This measure is flawed, because the leader cannot learn about what is really happening when he or she is doing all of the talking. Questions are the tools for learning. And learning is the key to making good decisions.
Your next conversations – your toughest challenges
Isn’t it great that we’re having weather? Who cares? The most important next conversations are hiding under rocks painted with lettering that reads “Don’t look here!” or “Detour this way”. The symptoms that you are treating in your company culture will not go away until you uncover and address their underlying causes. The discontent, resentment, and lack of respect in your relationship will only grow if you do not have a candid conversation with your significant other about what is bothering you.
Enriching your relationships through conversations
You have played a part in the development (or growth) of the challenges you face. Your recognition of that – and saying so – is an important element in a relationship-enriching conversation. Perhaps you weren’t clear about your expectations at the outset. Or maybe you avoided the issue for long enough that it progressed from a minor annoyance to a perpetual scowl. Perhaps you simply haven’t been listening, too caught up in your newspaper, your crisis du jour or the siren songs of your electronics to attend fully.
When you take the initiative to set aside uninterrupted time to ask questions and truly listen to the answers you demonstrate to the other person that they and their perspectives are valuable to you. This is not listening with a primary purpose of developing a response – rather to develop real understanding.
It’s not about you – or about them
You know I love you, but get over yourself. This isn’t about you. It is not really about them, either. When you need to confront problems, the problems are the focus. You and the other person, or persons, are looking at the thing – the opportunity, issue, problem or whatever – together. You’re dissecting and putting back together. Through conversation you are building a better whole.