Conversations that enable change

“It isn’t the changes that do you in; it’s the transitions”   William Bridges

Change is all around us, whether organisational, technological or social.  It may feel that we have only just got to grips with one change than things are changing again. As creatures of habit, altering the way we do things can cause anxiety as we have to step out of our comfort zone.  Learning new patterns of behaviour or routines takes time and energy…..and  so we may resist them.

Much has been written about how to spot resistance to change and strategies for handling it. According to William Bridges, it is not the change itself that is the problem. We humans need to go through a process of transition, which is a psychological process of internalizing, adjusting and adapting to change.

Enabling conversations help people through transition

Dialogue and communication form the basis of all human relationships and interactions.  They help us plot our pathway through life. What makes a conversation enabling comes from understanding what we want and how to bring it about.  We can influence others by the way we communicate with them, enabling them to move from a resistant mindset to one of acceptance and involvement.

According to John Dewey, communication is the central process of learning. It is the means by which we negotiate, understand one another’s experiences, and establish shared meaning. He wrote:

“To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience. One shares in what another has thought and felt and in so far, meagrely or amply, has his own attitude modified. Nor is the one who communicates left unaffected. … one has to assimilate, imaginatively, something of another’s experience in order to tell him intelligently of one’s own experience. …”

Listening is the key skill

When something is playing on our minds, having a trusted friend or colleague in whom we can confide helps. Effective listening is often all that is required to help us resolve thinking and feelings around issues.  But this type of listening is a skill that requires time and practice to acquire.  A skilled listener draws out our ability to talk about a  difficult situation, which improves our understanding of it and realising what we need to do may become immediately apparent.

Similarly, asking probing questions is effective at peeling away whatever is clouding our thinking, attitude or judgement around change. The act of being asked a question changes our experience, as it forces us to process it. It requires us to organise our thoughts, consider different perspectives, formulate opinions, and decide what we want.

Change talk

When we say what is important to us in any given situation and what we want from it, we reveal our motivational drive. This is most useful when we face difficult decisions requiring action – whether at work, in business or persona;l decisions like moving home or changing career.

The more we hear ourselves talk about the change we want, the more likely it is we will act on it to bring it about. This is the outcome of an enabling  conversation.

Regular purposeful, focused conversations help us take more control and responsibility, and better able to manage the challenges we face.  Such conversations enable us to develop our capability to identify resources and solutions to resolve our own problems, and therefore become more resilient in the face of emerging challenges.

Want to know more about our training and support for enabling conversations?

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