Conversations are a primary tool of my profession. As an Executive Coach I engage my clients in conversations daily, as a matter of course. How many conversations do you have every day? Are most of them enjoyable, meaningful, and productive?
Yesterday I met a colleague for lunch. We hadn’t seen each another for months, yet we jumped into a meaningful conversation and became immersed in catching up. We shared our current joys and challenges. We laughed, and we got serious. The conversation flowed naturally. As we were concluding, I looked at my watch and noticed an hour had flown by. Now the restaurant around us was filled with other customers, whom I hadn’t even noticed. I walked to my car feeling encouraged and refreshed, both heard and understood. Amazingly, I had new energy to face one of my most difficult challenges this week. I wondered as I drove back to my office…just what had made that conversation so inspiring?
When I got back to my desk, I reviewed some effective communication principles. I rediscovered five primary ideas that are foundational to creating “shared understanding” or true communication.
Just for fun, I want to share these highlights with you in a way that can bring new awareness. So, let’s think about what we might do if we wanted to be boring communicators and have extremely unsuccessful conversations every time. Sound entertaining?
These tips will help you be the leader that people will avoid communicating with at all costs.
Tip One: We should listen to ourselves for most of the conversation. It’s so important that we affirm our own abilities and protect ourselves to make sure we are not harmed in any way by the conversation. Also, if the other person is boring, it’s completely fine to multi-task and think about other parts of our lives.
Tip Two: We should ignore metaphors that arise in a conversation. When people use these types of “word pictures” they are communicating their emotions and past experiences and relating them to their current situation. Noticing these metaphors and discussing them can take extra energy, so we’ll just pass on that and talk about some facts.
Tip Three: It is most helpful to prejudge the person we are talking with and figure out ahead of time what the outcome of the conversation will be.
Tip Four: When asking questions, we should make sure the questions are closed-ended. We should always ask several questions at a time. When in doubt, we should start every question with “why”, as this style establishes dominance, and forces people to explain themselves to us.
Tip Five: We should not train ourselves to listen to tone, body language, word pictures, or repeated phrases, as that proves to be a waste of time. The “thing beneath the thing” is where it gets messy, so we will make sure everyone knows we don’t have time for what’s left unsaid.
I know you understand these sage “tips” are not true words of wisdom to employ when engaging in conversations. Of course, you have the capacity to do the opposite of these recommendations. You can choose to lead the way and make your interpersonal communication inspiring, not boring or irritating.
I invite you to enter your conversations this week with a renewed focus to be fully present, to listen not only to yourself but to your counterparts. Make your questions more thoughtful and powerful. By noticing and exploring metaphors, you can develop more depth and effectiveness in your conversational style. Watch and wait more. Use silence as a first response, and then give the conversation time to breathe.
Determine to bring this new commitment to each conversation and notice the responses. You may even enjoy challenging conversations a bit more. One thing is certain, people will welcome and respond to your inspiring, conversational style.
McWherter Coaching Group provides their clients with professional executive coaching services. A coaching partnership gives leaders the support and challenge they need, so they can think new thoughts and do new actions. Ready to explore coaching? Contact Wendy at 740-513-7055 or www.mcwhertercoaching.com.