Quality Of Conversation

The name of this method emerges from the Latin phrase to ‘turn around’, which is ‘con verse’ and the most consistently effective way to turn any situation around, from a minor personal challenge, all the way through to an enterprise-wide crisis is through the power of conversation. Although ‘just having a conversation’ might seem to be an absurdly easy way to resolve a challenging situation, the reality is that the quality of the solution and the outcome is very much dependent on the quality of the conversation that you have. Many of the conversations that I initially hear in organisations are not actually real conversations and so are invariably ineffective in turning any challenging situations around. Some of them are actually people talking with each other but most of the time, these conversations are just people talking at each other, usually on transmit-only and not listening to what the other person is saying.

Powerful Exchange

What should be a powerful exchange of insight and information is usually lost in the vagueness of misunderstood assumptions, biases and beliefs. Even though people are desperately trying to express their plans and perspectives, they never actually turn anything around. Instead, they just become stuck in an endless loop of half-heard truths and missed opportunities. The more that other people try to clarify their points, the less clearly defined that their perspectives seem to become. This usually results in a continual feeling of frustration that people just aren’t ‘getting it’ and the more fraught and emotional that the conversation is likely to become.

Boundary Tension

The fundamental reason for the challenges that people encounter when they try to say what they really mean is tension along the boundary between their inner and the outer worlds. The outer world is what we usually consider to be the real world. It is a world of certainties and tangible realities, where everything is known and familiar and where we can be certain of any outcome that we plan for. The outer world is a place where everything can be measured and managed and every plan will have a predictable result. Even though that outer world seems so certain and tangible, everything that emerges in it originates from our inner worlds.

‘Get Real’

Our inner worlds are places of imagination, ideas, insights and emotions. They are the source of our ideas, plans, concepts, needs, dreams, desires, longings, assumptions and beliefs. Unlike the outer world, our inner worlds can be confusing and contradictory places, where outcomes are uncertain and hopes and ambitions remain unrealised. As our inner worlds can seem so intangible, we are often cautioned against entering too far into them. We are told to ‘Get real!‘ and encouraged to step back into the apparently real world of the outer world.

Voicing Emotion

In a conversation, as emotions bubble up to the surface and tempers fray, people usually try to calm the situation down by telling each other to stay in that real world, the outer world, so that they can maintain a sensible approach to solving the problem. Becoming emotional can seem to cloud the situation and create the possibility of further breakdowns in communication, so intentionally voicing emotion in the workplace is usually seen as an action that should be avoided at all costs. People are encouraged to mask their emotions behind a professional face or put on a happy face even though they are feeling quite different. By taking a sensible and rational approach, the hope is that some sense can be made of a business challenge or dilemma that seems to make no sense at all.

Natural Human System

There is a paradox in this ‘sensible’ and emotion-free approach, however, because we all possess a natural human system that enables us to clearly make sense of the variations between what we perceive is happening in our inner world and what is actually taking place in the outer world. This sense-making system continually compares what is happening in the outer world with what is happening in our inner worlds, giving us an exquisite awareness of how to actually connect them and make the most of the opportunities that the connection offers. The paradox is that our natural sense-making system the works with the boundary tensions between our inner and outer worlds, is our emotions.

Naturally Making Sense

We use our emotions to unconsciously feed our inner world forward into the outer world and then feedback what we experience in a constant feed-forward and feed-back loop. By repressing our real emotions or attempting to mask them by adopting a professional demeanour or a happy face, we greatly diminish our ability to naturally make sense of what is actually happening in a challenging situation. By working with your emotions, rather than against them, you can create powerful connection between your inner world and outer world and realise how you can use the differences between them to make a real difference to your situation.

Working With Emotion

Working with emotion, however, does not mean that you will be in floods of tears all the time or turning scarlet with rage. Working with your emotions helps you to understand the subtleties and clues in any situation so that you can express them clearly in conversation. When you use your emotions to connect your inner world and outer world, it becomes much easier and enjoyable to clearly connect your inner world with the inner worlds of the people who you work with. As you do so, you’ll find that your conversations will give you new perspectives and choices that enable you to turn any situation around.