Are Your Conversations Successful?
We have conversations all day long; externally (with others) and internally (with ourselves). Sometimes everything ends well, while other times, you wonder what is WRONG with that person today? Success versus failure. Or is it?
As I contemplated some of my recent conversations, I found myself trying to identify the common denominators for the conversations that I considered a “success”. Whether I was at home talking with my husband or having business discussions with new colleagues, I really wanted to determine what was at play.
After a few false starts and some reworking of my plan, I’ve come up with a reasonably quick, relatively painless method of answering the question, What makes conversations successful?
1. Identify the purpose of the conversation. Having a purpose and stating what “success” would look like alleviates our tendencies to assume. Do you know, going in, what you want from the conversation? Are you open to other ideas? Others’ opinions? Can you be specific in your request, and are you okay with the other person saying “no” or disagreeing with you? What language are you using: did you speak “with”, “to”, or “at” the other person?
2. Identify the emotion in which you show up to the conversation.Are you able to define the mood or emotion you showed up in, and how the mood/emotion affected 1) the conversation as a whole and 2) the success of the discussion?
This scenario is likely familiar to most of us: Someone makes a comment that you feel is unclear, and you immediately start the internal conversation. “What does THAT mean?” “Was that directed at me?” “I don’t know how I’m supposed to respond to that.” “I’m not [smart, worthy, valued, fill-in-the-blank] enough to be a part of this conversation.” “I don’t like confrontation so I’m not going to say anything.” Or “That feels personal, and I need to defend myself.”
Those questions cover a lot of emotional territory. Happy, stressed, fearful, angry, sad, joyful, disgusted, surprised, trusting, anxious, friendly, open, kind, and envious, just to name a few. Your emotions trigger your vocal and body language, which drastically influences the outcome of the discussion.
3. Identify how your body reflects your position within the conversation. When you are emotionally aware, check your body language. Are you leaning forward? Are your arms crossed? When you smile, is it only with your with mouth or do your eyes join as well? What gestures are you using? Bold and animated; or small and weak? How would you describe your handshake? How are you breathing?
4. Identify the language you’re using.Do you say “um” a lot? What is your tone of voice? Are you using words that are unlikely to be understood by your recipient (i.e, talking “above” your audience) or throwing out synonyms that are likely unfamiliar to others in the conversation? If so, is your behavior intentional, perhaps because you are nervous, feeling overwhelmed, or have the need to “prove” yourself?
In all we do, our internal voices can and sometimes do overwhelm us.
We can begin controlling that internal voice with just these few points. As you go about your week and continue interacting with others, try to be aware of your attitudes, tone of voice, body language, and words. As we increase our self-awareness, we can dramatically improve the success of our conversations.
Let 2022 be your year for gaining the support you need to rise to or continue the path of success you desire for yourself and your organization.
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Let’s move forward. Together.
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P.P.S. With over three decades of professional experience in corporate operations and executive human resources, I am a proven results-driven leader. My expertise includes strategy, change management, talent management and organizational development, employee relations, and executive and leadership coaching. I am a highly effective communicator and team leader with demonstrated ability to build long-term relationships across internal and external customer environments built with integrity, confidence, authenticity, and trust.