Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Copy of Your Conversations

“We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.”

– Thomas Moore

Conversations are the basic currency of human interaction and is at the heart of our personal and leadership success.

Connection and conversations go together.

As connection is one of our core needs as humans, conversation is one of the key ways we achieve it.

During the digital era, the art of conversation has been put under pressure. There has been constant and rapid change, changing the way we connect with each other which results in a reduction of meaningful and impactful conversations. This is a choice, however. And bringing our awareness to the impact the digital age and the impact our ‘busyness’ has on human interaction means we can create a new way of meeting our human needs.

Good conversation lead to collaboration, trust, engagement, resilience, and improved performance in our self-leadership and in our leadership of others.

The art of a conversation is complex.

A conversation is an exchange of words, while communication is the transformation of thoughts and words into meaningful action.

Conversation typically involves what you wish to share with another; communication focuses more on what you wish to accomplish.

Conversations are face to face. Not online. Not via text. Face to face.

However, a great conversation goes further than simply exchanging information like a computer. We also filter, interpret, and elaborate on what they hear. we put our map of the world on the words and put our own meaning on the conversation.

I know for me, I have had conversations and have come away with a different perspective on the discussion and outcomes than the other person.

Same words, different perspectives, different meanings.

In conversation, we make new connections in our minds, and our thinking can be triggered down entirely new paths. Our brains can be rewired. A good conversation can greatly impact and change our lives. Our thinking changes, our minds are moulded in a different way.

Our conversations can change our thinking, which changes our decisions, behaviours and results.

What Impacts Your Conversations?

A conversation is spontaneous and dynamic. It is not planned or scheduled.

We don’t prepare our response to something that someone says – it emerges spontaneously.

Your conversations are shaped by your moods. A conversation held one day will take a very different path and have very different outcomes compared to the same conversation on another day.

The environment in which a conversation is held also has an impact on the actual conversation. Conversations conducted in a quiet room will take a very different form to one in a noisy restaurant or on the train, in a car or while walking.

And it’s not just the words spoken that form the communication. As we’ve already explored, the conversation is impacted by the speed and volume of delivery, the tone and the emotion in the voice shape the meaning of the words conveyed. And the eyes and the smile convey so much along with other body language.

We have evolved to be very sensitive to body language and can detect deceit, lies, stress and other underlying emotions. We interpret and put a meaning on other people’s behaviours – do they smile “too much” or “too little”? How does this impact your ‘trust’ of them before you’ve even spoken to them? Have you judged someone based upon their body language without even having a conversation?

So, How Do You Have A Good Conversation?

You need to perfect the art and skill of asking good, well-worded questions that direct the conversation and gives the other people an opportunity to express themselves and connect.

Talking to someone new can be challenging and awkward, or you may thrive on it. We are all different with what challenges us. So being aware of who we are, what requires more or less energy means that we can manage ourselves to take advantage of all opportunities that present themselves – that we are not limited by any fears we may hold about ourselves.

Compared with talking to your partner or friend, talking to someone new is unchartered territory. It can be challenging and intimidating.

We can go into conversations thinking all these awful things could happen:

“Are they going to like or accept me?”

“Will I fit in?”

The other person might talk too much. We might talk too much. They might shut down. We might get bored. They might get bored. There might be an uncomfortable silence. They might be trying to hit on me. They might be trying to hurt me somehow.

Context matters as well. There are unwritten social norms in every context, which we tend to want to follow, but we may not always be sure of. Will revealing a certain fact about ourselves make us appear more credible or likable? Will being too bold impress or turn someone off? Should we be authentic or guarded?

But despite all this, talking to new people (even complete strangers we likely won’t see again) is good for us. Studies show that even minimal social interactions (say, chatting with that stranger on the train) boosts mood, for example.

In one study, researchers recruited individuals at random as they entered a crowded coffee shop downtown Vancouver, directing some to try to have a conversation with the barista and others to be as efficient as possible in their coffee fetching. The former group reported leaving the coffee shop in a better mood and having a better sense of belonging in their community compared with the efficient group.

7 Steps To A Great Conversation

Whether it’s walking up to someone at a networking event, engaging a friend of a friend you’ve never met before at a party, or sharing a kind word with a stranger on the elevator, walking your dog or putting your bins out, here are the 7 Steps to a Great Conversation.

Now, let’s explore each step in detail…

Step 1 – Be curious

Conversations are a two way street – it’s not all about them and it’s not all about you. A great conversation is achieving balance between listening and talking. Asking open ended questions encourages the person to engage and expand on their thoughts.

Research has suggested that the more questions you ask, the more liked you are going to be from your conversation partner.

Step 2 – Listen

Be content to listen and listen well. A great conversationalist is low-key, easy-going, cheerful and genuine.

Listening is a key skill for great conversations. A lot of people love talking, so it takes practice and skill to learn to actively listen and focus on the other person, not themselves.

Step 3 – Share the space

Give the conversation space to develop. Great conversation has an ebb and flow to it – imagine the tide coming in and out. Each person should have the opportunity to talk. It’s like throwing a ball around the park – everyone gets their turn and no-one hogs the ball for too long. If you feel you have been speaking for too long, ask someone an open ended question – you are passing the conversational ball back to them.

Step 4 – Be genuine

Respond to what they are saying genuinely. Stay focussed on them, not in your head switched off. People can tell if you are really being yourself. Bring your real self to the conversation and you will connect more easily and the conversation will flow. If you are trying to be someone you are not, the conversation will stagnate. People are intuitive. The more genuine you are, the more easily you will develop trust in others.

Step 5 – Build rapport

Build rapport and be nice. Establish common ground, smile, use positive body language, give a compliment. Don’t judge – simply spend time and really engage. Be friendly, open and authentic. Don’t be unpleasant about others either. Model excellence in building and maintaining rapport.

Step 6 – Be brave

Take action and have conversations with people you don’t know! Go outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Fearing social rejection is a normal part of being human. However, research shows that people are nearly always willing to engage in a conversation when prompted by someone else. It will feel uncomfortable as you start out, but that means you are on the right track. Seek out people who are different from you – learn new perspectives and expand your awareness.

Step 7 – Create emotional connections

Share appropriate information and be open about what interests you, what makes you you, and build on your authenticity. This will inspire others to share as well. Sharing can be simple stuff – what are your plans for the weekend, what your kids are doing, what book you are reading or show you are watching. This leaves the door open for the other person to respond and connect. You are building the foundation of a relationship and an emotional connection.

Bonus Content:

Conversational Leadership

Great leadership can’t exist without conversations – being able to communicate with others is the key to driving them towards a common goal.

A truly inspiring leader leverages the power of conversation in order to inspire, support, discover and lead their followers.

Through empowering conversations, every leader can create a new common abundance-based mindset enabling creative thinking, innovation and continuous self-leadership.

A Leader must communicate – to talk with their teams and colleagues, and to let their words drive their followers towards a common direction.

In our current complex world of communication, a great leader needs to engage in human interaction through face-to-face conversations. Yes – not emails or texts – face to face conversations.

According to educator Carolyn Baldwin, “Conversational Leadership is a core process to cultivate the collective intelligence needed to create business and social value”. As a core process, Conversational Leadership is the centre of an empowering others.

Imagine a team whose Leader is not able to have a crucial face-to-face conversation with each of their members concerning these areas of improvement.

An inspiring conversation can foster the motivation of the collaborators, sharpen their sense of purpose and boost great results and team spirit.

Conversely, if the Leader is underperforming in this area, the team will always remain just a bunch of individuals without a common vision about the objective, the values and the sense of their work. They won’t have the right message to drive them towards their goals. Things just won’t happen.

The power of Conversational Leadership can be explained in a number of ways. Advanced research is increasing proving neuroscience to be the root.

According to William R. Reddy, there is a deep and inextricable link between the emotional process and the cognitive (logical) process. Concept learning takes place automatically when the subject associates an emotion.

That is, when an emotion is being experienced at the time of learning or engagement, it will be easier and faster.

A state of profound empathy with the counterpart, therefore, acts as a powerful accelerator of the message, since cognitive learning is accompanied by a deeper level, namely emotional learning. Emotions act at the neuronal level and facilitate the processes of knowledge, but there are two other clear pieces of evidence brought forth by neuroscience.

The first is that repetition stimulates the automation of emotional learning. Furthermore, emotions can also be easily induced. In front of the image of a happy person, subjects are more likely to claim to be happy.

That’s why Conversational Leadership is the best way to generate positive energy and boost employees’ sense of purpose. The empowering energy of the Leader is empathically transferred to their counterpart. The more the conversation is repeated, the more its positive effect will last over time and will stimulate the intellectual and emotional activity of the team.

In order to unleash all their potential, people do need Leaders able to create intense interpersonal communication. The effects of an empowering leadership conversation can be life changing and the memory alone can produce mental energy – because it’s anchored to an emotional experience.

And by the way, most of those people who have felt this intense connection with their own Leader eventually became executives.

Managing a conversation able to engage and motivate others is challenging and requires a high level of confidence and skill. This is why this kind of conversations are perceived as “critical”. If we do not practice enough to gain real confidence, they are out of our comfort zone, thus requiring much more effort to perform. Hence, take action, make mistakes, learn and grow from having these conversations. Take note of the feedback and calibrate your approach until you have a new strategy that consistently works.

When everyone is able and confident having these conversations, a leadership mindset will become an intrinsic quality of your team, leading to a long-term improvement of creative thinking, openness and innovation.

So, it starts with you, and the power of Conversational Leadership will ripple down throughout your team, creating high performing individuals filled with purpose.

Your Turn

Let’s do another exercise together.

Download the workbook from the ‘Materials’ tab at the top of this page.

Let’s explore the conversations your self leadership and leadership of others.

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Your Inner Circle

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