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Making Each Conversation Count!

"We effect change by engaging in robust conversations with ourselves, our colleagues, our customers, our family, the world. Whether you are governing a country, running an organization, or participating in a committed personal relationship, your ability to effect change will increase as you become more responsive to your world and to the individuals who are central to your happiness and success," writes Susan Scott in her bestseller, Fierce Conversations.

What is a fierce conversation? “Fierce” implies strength, passion, and intensity but really fierce conversations are about being clear, taking action and being courageous enough to tell the truth. Fierce conversations are about being authentic and finding a way to say what hasn’t been said. Fierce conversations are about recognizing the value of the relationship and expressing appreciation. In other words, fierce conversations are about making each conversation count — at work, in the community, in our homes.

Too often the conversations we have with colleagues, clients, and bosses skirt the real issues. We fail to tell the truth. We avoid what needs to be said. We don’t ask the right questions. We don’t listen. Much is at stake in these conversations, and often the conversations we have or don’t have determine our success.

In her book, Smith outlines seven key principles of fierce conversations. It isn’t rocket science or a complex theory, but adapting your communication style to the following principles can make a significant difference.

  • Master the courage to interrogate reality. Be willing to ask questions and really hear what others have to say. Every member of an organization or a relationship has an individual piece of reality or truth. When you interrogate reality, you look beyond your own “truth” and really hear what someone else is saying. One of the most important assignments you can do is to identify the key people in your work and life. Then carve out time often to ask them a simple question: What is the most important thing that you and I should be talking about? And then listen to what they have to say.
  • Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. Make sure that you are telling yourself the truth about your own reality and then bring yourself to the conversation. Choose to be authentic in your conversations. Be courageous about sharing your thoughts and feelings.
  • Be here prepared to be nowhere else. Multi-tasking generally doesn’t work when it come to relationships. Give someone your full attention. The gift of listening is one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone. Active listening will make a profound difference in the decisions we make, our relationships and how much we are learning. As someone once said, if you are doing all the talking, you aren’t learning anything that you didn’t know already.
  • Tackle your toughest challenge today. What conversations have you been avoiding? What situations or behaviors need to be addressed? Identify the people and the messages. Then choose one fierce conversation to begin with. Identify the issue, provide an example of the behavior or situation that you want to change, briefly describe how it makes you feel, give a clear statement in terms of what is at stake, identify any contribution you have made to the problem, state that you want to resolve the issue and then give the other person a chance to respond.
  • Obey your instincts. Listen to your inner voice. We are intuitive beings and we have marvelous internal radar, which can save us from all kinds of mistakes and from taking the wrong paths. But you have to listen, and you have to be willing to speak up when your intuition is telling you something that may not be what you are actually hearing someone say. When you do address it, do it with an attitude of “checking it out” with the other person rather than as a truth. For example, you might say, “As I have been listening to you, I have had the feeling that you are really conflicted about what career direction is the right one for you to take. Does that make sense to you?”
  • Take responsibility for your emotional wake. Know that often the things we say, and particularly the body language that accompanies them, make a much more lasting impression than we realize. Make sure that the wake you leave is positive and affirms the relationship. Take the opportunity, often, to acknowledge a job well done or an important relationship. Make sure you frequently say thank you.
  • Let silence do the heavy lifting. Many parents have found that when disciplining children, less talking is more effective than ranting and raving. By giving our children silent space, they often share more than they would have otherwise. The same principle plays out in our adult conversations. Don’t rush to fill every silent pause with conversation. Use those pauses to reflect, learn and grow.

This article is published on the Working Dynamics website with the permission of the author.

Jada Banks, an associate of Working Dynamics, is an experienced professional trainer and speaker in the business of motivating and empowering professionals for more than 13 years. She has provided programs for hundreds of adults on personal leadership, change, and goal setting in corporate, academic and nonprofit settings. Jada received her M.Ed. in Adult Education from Virginia Commonwealth University with a concentration in human resources and management development and has a B.A. in English and Journalism from the University of Richmond. Jada also presents interactive workshops on this topic. Contact us at (804) 353-9527 or for more information.

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