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Ask the Expert: Meaningful Conversations

Many daily conversations are transactional and necessary – “What’s for dinner?” “Takeout.” Information is exchanged, requests are made. Creating meaningful connection with others, however, requires a different intention and approach. It requires meaningful conversations, which are not transactional – they are transformative.

Whether you think this is a “soft skill,” you identify as a production-focused leader, or don’t believe you’re a people-person, meaningful conversations will drive you to greater results, result in more efficient and effective production, and create psychological safety. Leading and having meaningful conversations is a power skill used daily by effective leaders.

To get started, use any combination of the following suggestions in your next conversation – and get ready to become the type of leader people will be loyal to and desire to work with!

Notice self:
The meaningful conversation starts in your inner dialogue, most of which is filtered through a negative bias. Is what you’re telling yourself empowering for the conversation you’re having?

More listening than speaking / more asking than telling: Meaning and connection occur when we listen to understand, which we demonstrate by acknowledging the topic, validating the other person’s emotion and experience, and asking open, exploratory and empowering questions (starting with “how,” “what,” or “why”). We don’t need agreement, making it a powerful way to work toward understanding. For example:

“I think I understand what you’re saying, Tom. The fact that Joe was late with his report for the third time is really frustrating to you, especially when it causes your work to run late. How would you like to approach him on this?”

Alignment: Focusing on the shared desired results is a great place to start and end. Context and meaning are often assumed and not expressed; leaders have a responsibility to provide clarity. Slow the conversation down long enough to get the meaning inserted!

Practice meaningful conversations and pay attention to the subtle shifts in how work gets accomplished and people relate. Psychological safety will increase, allowing people to share better ideas, challenge one another productively and ask vulnerable, otherwise unasked questions that might shed light on better ways to work together.

About Emergent
Emergent is a leadership and development organization in Central New York offering an array of services to effect both individual and organizational transformation.