Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results [Hardcover] Judith E. Glaser (Author) $18.99, 211 pages
Conversations are not what we think they are. We’ve grown up thinking they are about talking, sharing, information, telling people what or telling others what’s on our minds. We are now learning, through neurological and cognitive research, that a “conversation” goes deeper and is more robust than simple information.
The premise of Conversational Intelligence is: To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. Everything happens through conversations.
What Can We Learn from Our Worst Conversations. Conversations are multidimensional, not linear. What we think, what we say, what we mean, what others hear, and how we feel about it afterward are the key dimensions behind Conversational Intelligence. Though conversations are not simply “ask and tell” levels of discourse, we often treat them as though they are.
Conversations are the golden threads, albeit sometimes-fragile ones that keep us connected to others. Human beings have hardwired systems exquisitely designed to let us know where we stand with others; based on a quick read of a situation, our brains know whether we should operate in a protective mode or be open to sharing, discovery, and influence.
Protecting ourselves is hardwired in our brains. Fear and conflict not only change the chemistry of the brain, they also change how we feel, how we behave, and how others perceive us. In a nanosecond we can move from being seen as a trusted friend and advisor to being seen as a frightening threat, a person deeply distrusted, because fear has tipped the scales that way.
Being in sync with others is vital to healthy relationships. And it’s not just a metaphor. Research indicates that when we are comfortable with someone, our heartbeat becomes more coherent, sending signals to the brain to relax, open up, and share with that person. When gaps arise between what we expect and what we get, we become uncertain of our relationship and our fear networks begin to take control of our brains.
Part Two: Raising Your Conversational Intelligence Conversations are rituals we embed into our culture and our relationships, and which give us a way to successfully structure our engagements with others. Part II focuses on what you can do to shape conversations for success. Breakdowns happen when you and I think we are talking to each other but we are really talking past each other. We are so engrossed in what we have to say that we don’t realize we are carrying on our own monologues, not dialogues. When we are conversationally blind, our conversations often go off track because we see the world from our own perspective and not from other person’s.
Conversations can be categorized as “Tell and Ask” interactions dynamics. People are exchanging information, updates, and facts that help us align our realities or confirm we are on the same page. There is not a lot of trust, and people are focusing more on what they need to get from each other to validate and confirm their view of reality.
Level II: Positional:These conversations are characterized by “Advocate and Inquire” interaction dynamics. In a Level II conversation I am advocating for what I want and I am inquiring about your beliefs so I can influence you to my point of view. However, if I feel that you are not going to be fair or are lobbying at my expense, I will retreat into protective behaviors.
Level III: Transformational: Transformation conversations are marked by “Share and Discover” interaction dynamics. When I share first, my brain receives a cue that I will be vulnerable with you and that I will open up my inner thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Others in the conversation receive the signal that you are willing to be influenced, that you are about them, and that they can trust you to experiment and innovate with them. To raise your Conversational Intelligence, you need to become master and co-creator of conversational rituals that enable the greatest expression of ideas, feelings, hunches, thoughts, and aspirations possible.
The keys to successful change lie in understanding change from a Conversational Intelligence perspective. Change is more a process that “we” do together than “I” do alone. When leaders honor and respect how our WE-centric brains respond to change, they will become champions of a new level of leadership fueled by applying all three levels of Conversational Intelligence at the right time and in the right way.
Here are a few exercises for you to do at work to help your (and others’) addiction to being right:
Set rules of engagement. If you’re heading into a meeting that could get testy, start by outlining rules of engagement. These practices will counteract the tendency to fall into harmful conversational patterns. Afterwards, consider see how you and the group did and seek to do even better next time.
Listen with empathy. In one-on-one conversations, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more. The more you learn about other peoples’ perspectives, the more likely you are to feel empathy for them. And when you do that for others, they’ll want to do it for you, creating a virtuous circle.
Plan who speaks. In situations when you know one person is likely to dominate a group, create an opportunity for everyone to speak. Ask all parties to identify who in the room has important information, perspectives, or ideas to share. List them and the areas they should speak about on a flip chart and use that as your agenda, opening the floor to different speakers, asking open-ended questions and taking notes.
Connecting and bonding with others trumps conflict. I’ve found that even the best fighters — the proverbial smartest guys in the room — can break their addiction to being right by getting hooked on oxytocin-inducing behavior instead.
Dr. Marc Bewley, Church Starter Strategist
Baptist State Convention of Michigan