Conversation is relationship in action

“The conversation is the relationship. If the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all of the possibilities for the individuals in the relationship become smaller…”

The above quote from Susan Scott, author of ‘Fierce Conversations’ sums up the importance of human connectivity which is nurtured though the conversations we hold. Relationships are fundamental to getting things done and success is linked to the quality of the relationships we develop – whether it’s with colleagues, suppliers, clients, friends or competitors who play a part in our working environment. And the way we build these relationships is through the conversations we hold

Conversations present us with the perfect opportunity to create a climate that supports positive, productive relationships. Think about the conversations you have – do you set a tone and mood that engages others, that invites them to give of their best, even in challenging circumstances? Or do you strike a tone that actually creates more stress, so people feel pushed beyond their limits and disengage from what you want to them to do?

In his book “Wise Up – The Challenge of Lifelong Learning”, Guy Claxton writes: “Learning is what you do when you don’t know what to do.” The way out of the pressure of feeling stuck- of having no options or possibilities requires us to apply intelligence. Within organisations there is a great call for cooperation and team working, and with good reason – to use more brain power, free up thinking and bring different perspectives to complex problems in order to create new options. Just putting a group together in a room is not enough; the participants to know how to engage with each other, how to communicate and how to learn together.

The way we engage people in conversation affects the outcomes. Feelings and moods are drivers of human behaviour. When we like someone and feel good working with them, we tend to cooperate more, are more open to sharing ideas, and we’re prepared to give extra ‘discretionary’ effort. When we are enthusiastic there is more likelihood that we will get on and do than when we are down – a form of resilience which is especially important when facing difficulties.

Effective work in groups requires openness to accept critical feedback positively when you have to justify ideas and test the feasibility of solution strategies on others.  Listening, consensus seeking, giving up an idea to work with someone else’s, empathy and compassion are all essential skills that group participants need to learn to cooperate and build working relationship.

We can absolutely affect the environment around us through the tone and mood that our conversations set. What is the climate in which your conversations take place?

Think about any recent conversations you’ve had where you achieved a positive outcome, not just in terms of results but also in terms of relational impact. What did you do that contributed to making it work?  What other conversations and relationships might benefit from a similar approach?

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