So often when I help two clients in the same organization resolve a highly emotional issue, the reflection of both people goes something like this:

“Gee, if we had just talked to each other much earlier about the situation, we could have avoided…”

The “much earlier” emphasis is critical. Most of these relationships have multiple years underway. Years of confident assumptions, unaware misunderstandings, strong resentments, retaliation (yes, even by nice people), and very human upset and anger.

The definition of a conversation is “the exchange of thoughts and ideas.” So, conversation may not be necessary when you are telling someone what to do. The distinction to consider in your dialogue is when you are telling someone versus when you should be engaging in a richer conversation. Conversations require more openness and interest in discovering shared understanding and new ideas.

I’m doing some new thinking on this topic. In the meantime, here are three ideas to get you started:

  1. Simply inserting more conversations will not necessarily ensure agreement.  One conversation on a point of disagreement is always insufficient. If your conversation is not working, step back and consider the dynamics, the people, and how you could change what you are doing. Stay the course, building your skill in that conversation.
  2. We have to come to a conversation with openness to another’s perspective to give ourselves any change of understanding or a pathway to success. That means we have to ask questions and listen rigorously with real interest.
  3. If the relationship is troubled, be assured that one or both of you are “triggered” and have stopped participating at your best. Our brain actually fires off a signal of danger (ever heard of the amygdala?). We have to be sensitive to those triggers so that we don’t fuel our own failure.

I will be adding more posts over the coming weeks on this topic. For now, I want to leave you with two questions for you to consider:

  1. With whom am I in a destructive dynamic that could impede successful outcomes?
  2. With whom am I initiating an important relationship and can be more intentional in our conversations?

This week, observe your conversations (or lack of conversation) with people who are key to your success? What dynamic is in play?