Conversations are a medium for change and it is through them that we create a context for learning. Conversations enable people to discover their voice, so they can articulate more their thoughts around the challenges they face more easily. Often just listening attentively and asking some clear and focused questions is all that is needed to help someone gain greater insight into their situation. Whether you are a manager or simply a trusted colleague, a conversation can often provide just the right kind of support someone might need.
Just talking about change is a step towards bringing it about. When we hear ourselves say what is important to us about the change we envisage and what we want from it, we reveal our thinking and motivation. This is particularly useful at those points in our lives when we face difficult decisions – like changing jobs, moving house, starting a new career, starting a family etc. It is effective if the listener can pick up and reflect back specific words we use to describe our motivations around the change such as how we feel about it, how ready we are to make the change, what might be stopping us. This is because our language influences our thinking, decision making and actions. The more we hear ourselves talk about the change we want, the more likely we are to make it happen.
A simple conversations can help someone think about options that will help them move forward. It can help them decide on a possible direction and actions to arrive at a solution. Such conversations have the potential to help us learn for ourselves, to develop the capability to identify resources and solutions to our own problems, and therefore become more resilient in the face of emerging challenges. Holding regular, purposeful and focused conversations helps people to take more control and responsibility for how they respond to their situations. It is a life skill that leaves them better able to manage the challenges they face.
Learning how to support someone through such conversations is a vital skill used across a range of contexts – whether it’s helping someone managing a long term health condition, working with a child in a classroom, or encouraging positive changes in lifestyle or work related behaviours. Of course, you need your own depth of resourcefulness and confidence in your own capability if you are to help others develop these attributes in themselves. Change may not happen overnight, it can take time. You may have to overcome negative attitudes, challenge ingrained limiting beliefs, address gaps in capability and know how, or other barriers which often hold people back. Most of all though, you need to genuinely believe in the potential of others to change – and be able to convey that to them – if you are going to engage and support them effectively.
And then with patience, gentle persistence and perseverance through regular conversations you can help someone develop a positive mindset, more empowering beliefs, which will help them to develop the capability and confidence to move themselves forward.
Thinking about conversations you have, how do you approach them? Do you go in blindly and hope for the best? Or do you know how to handle them in a way that will really make a difference?
Contact us if you would like to learn more about conversational approaches to helping people change.