Date posted: 01/12/2016 5 min read

Remarkable conversations and how to have them

Ten common mistakes that prevent people from having remarkable conversations

In brief

  • The goal is to expand a conversation, not to narrow it
  • Embarking on a conversation or business decision thinking you have all the facts is pointless
  • Being right becomes a lonely existence in which very few people trust you or want to work with you

By Georgia Murch

Remarkable conversations are those that people can’t stop talking about. We remember the clarity, ease and the great outcomes that come about.

Often those people we have the most inspiring conversations with are also, unsurprisingly, remarkable leaders of people, of projects or ideas.

We all know someone that is brilliant at communicating. At a dinner party their profound input may silence all diners. At the work table somehow their contribution seems to be worth more.

After 20 years of working with people and leaders this is where I, too, often see people limit themselves, their relationships and the outcomes they are looking to achieve.

So what are some of the mistakes people often make when communicating?

1. Having “yoursations” not conversations

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is not your advice but your undivided attention. To listen. Really listen. The goal is to expand the conversation, not to narrow it.

A good conversation is like a tennis rally — back and forth. For communicators taking up more of the air time in a conversation, it is time to learn that these are known as “yoursations”. Yoursationalists could practically have discussions without another person present.

2. The search for the “real truth”

Coming to a conversation or business decision thinking you have all the facts is as pointless as going to relationship counselling on your own.

When you’re the only one contributing, or are solely prepared to listen to your side of the facts, you are more likely to reach flawed outcomes. After all, you’re only focusing on number one rather than considering all the factors and opinions surrounding you. It is a combination of what you know plus what they know that leads to great decision making, remarkable outcomes and deepened relationship building.

3. Need to be right

When your desire to win the conversation, or your need to be right, dominates the agenda, you are likely to steer the conversation in the way you need with no real regard for the damage along the way. If you are not prepared to be honest with yourself then how can you expect others to be honest with you? Being right becomes a lonely existence in which very few people trust you and even fewer want to work with you.

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is not your advice but your undivided attention. To listen. Really listen. The goal is to expand the conversation, not to narrow it.

4. Making others feel “safe”

When both parties feel “safe enough” to be honest with each other you reach the best outcomes and preserve, or in some cases restore, great working relationships.

When we feel stressed or unsafe in a conversation, physically or emotionally, we have a stress reaction and show fight or flight behaviours. This leads to an unhealthy exchange that gets worse rather than better.

5. Don’t highlight the real issue

Most people don’t feel confident enough to go straight to the heart of the problem. As a compromise, they sugar coat it or walk around it in the hope that the other person will do the heavy lifting and see the truth hidden underneath. This could all be because we have not developed the courage or the right interpersonal skills to discuss the real issue. Or sometimes we interpret the issue incorrectly.

6. The board of directors in our head

We all have a view of the world based on our upbringing, culture, faith, community, age, etc. This then forms how we perceive information, people and circumstances. These lenses, or board of directors (BOD), skew how we see things.

The BOD tells us that our interpretation of life, people and situations is the right one. But what if it is wrong? It often is.

The BOD in our heads dramatically influences how we approach conversations before, in the moment and after the fact. It can take away our objective thinking and steer us away from ideal outcomes.

7. Take others at face value

Because of our BOD we often decide whether someone is right or wrong based on our own perceptions. We look at someone’s words and behaviours and judge them. We only see what they say, what they do and how they look. But this is not who they are. This is often only a small percentage of what’s going on for them. We don’t make the time to consider this.

8. Facts vs fiction

Often we find it difficult to decipher the difference between the facts and our own opinions and feelings. So we lead with our feelings and opinions in a conversation and wonder why things go wrong. Therefore, it’s easy to understand that when we open conversations with our “facts” it’s logical that the other person is not going to effectively take the new information on board.

9. The honest assassin

Those four words: “I’m just being honest”. They seem to give some people permission to say precisely what they think. Whether it is the truth or not.

Practise this type of honesty and not only will you see trust and respect bank being depleted, but also the “discretionary effort” bank too — regardless of whether we are friends or work colleagues. It will seem as if we don’t want to go the extra distance for these people anymore. They have hurt us. It’s our own moral compass that we need to take ownership of.

10. Reacting and self-management

Are you a lover or a fighter? Do you run and hide or always have to have the last word?

Either way, knowing how you react puts you a step ahead when it comes to self-management in a loaded conversation. Most people don’t recognise their reactions until it’s too late and the damage is done. Alternatively, if they do many have not yet developed a “toolkit” to be able to self-manage in the moment.

If conversation is the relationship then how we manage ourselves during that interaction is everything. How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.

Whilst the above ten issues are the most common blocks to creating remarkable communications, they are not mountains to climb. The good news is that people can learn the skills and self-awareness to create outstanding relationships and become the people that others want to follow.

Georgia Murch is an author, speaker and expert in teaching individuals how to have the tough conversations and create feedback cultures in organisations. or [email protected]

This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of Acuity magazine.

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