Are Your Conversations Worth Having?

How do the conversations you have at work generally leave you feeling?  Exhausted and deflated?  Or energized and uplifted?  And how does this impact your relationships and your performance?

“Conversations are at the core of how you interact with others,” explained Professor Jackie Stavros from Lawrence Technological University and co-author of Conversations Worth Having  when I interviewed her recently. “The conversations that are worth having most at work are ones that fuel productive and meaningful engagement, and your capacity to thrive.”

Jackie suggested that the types of conversations you have with others around you can have a powerful impact on your experiences, relationships, and accomplishments. If you’re having depreciative conversations – that are overly critical, judgmental, focus on why things don’t or won’t work, or are centered on your own ideas –  chances are you can be devaluing other people or a situation and narrowing your opportunities.  And you risk leaving the other person feeling defensive, unworthy, angry or powerless.

Whereas engaging in appreciative and inquiry-based conversations – that are curious, deepen awareness and understanding of other’s perspectives, and build connections – can tap into your greatest strengths and create upward spirals of confidence and optimism that inspire action in yourself and others.  These conversations are worth having because they enliven people, unleash creativity, fuel productivity and engagement, and move your organization forward, even in the face of unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances.

So how can you create more conversations that are worth having?

Jackie shared three ways you can generate more conversations worth having in your workplace.

  • Pause – before you speak to slow things down, open your mind, heart, and intention to have conversations worth having based on the five key principles of appreciative inquiry:
    • Constructionist – You create reality through your conversations, so are you making room for new knowledge and perspectives? What do you want to co-create?
    • Simultaneity – Change happens the moment you speak or ask a question. What impact do you want your words to have?
    • Anticipatory – You move in the direction of your thoughts, and listen for what you expect. Are you open to anticipate the best from others?
    • Poetic – There is always more than one way to understand others or a situation. Are you looking for what’s working well and what’s possible?
    • Positive – Positive questions inspire positive images that can compel you to take action. What is the most positive and inspiring question you can ask?
  • Choose a positive frame – take a strengths-based approach to reframe your problems and weaknesses into capabilities and opportunities.  This doesn’t mean that you ignore your difficulties, but instead, you name what you’re struggling with, flip it into a positive opposite and frame it around the outcome you most desire.  Positive framing shifts your attention and action from problems and weaknesses onto where you want to go.
  • Ask generative questions – Ask generative questions that surface new stories, ideas, and diverse perspectives, make room for new information and innovation, and help you deepen your connections with others.  For example: What lights you up at work? What would surprise and delight our customers most in this situation?  What needs to happen in our team for everyone to feel psychologically safe?  What has to happen for our leaders to be fully on board? How do you see this situation?  Can you help me understand your perspective better?  How might we each contribute to the success of this project?

What can you do to have more conversations that matter at work?

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