There is little value in having the same conversations over and over. Eventually, the glazed-over-eyes should be a dead give-away: no one is listening. If the goal is to connect — maybe even build a bridge to on-going dialogue — here are five ideas that will instigate productive conversations.
1) Avoid the devils you know. These come in all shapes and sizes. They may be rooted in legitimate analysis or the ghosts of self-awareness. And though understanding the past is one of the ways to avoid repeating it, conversations (in the context of any relationship) that begin with the issues of past experiments and experiences rarely last long enough to break new ground. Change – indeed progress – is born of shared aspirations. Better conversations focus here.
2) Pass on the blame game. It’s popular, and everyone plays it. So much so that, masquerading as analysis, the language of blame (or CYA) is often the default in change related dialogue. Understanding what precipitated difficulties of the past is instructive, but conversations focused on affixing blame are a waste of time. When the goal is to move the ball, play a different game.
3) Change the conversation. This is the game we should be about, because it facilitates connection. Much of the time the reason progress is so slow or minuscule is we’re engaging in the same discussions…over and over. The same debate. The same case. The same retort. And the same result. Try investing in creativity and innovation. Want to stand a discussion on its ear? Drop pre-conceived agendas and seed a new idea. Where true progress is the objective, new ideas – not agendas or platforms – will fuel a better brand of dialogue.
4) Be about solutions rather than winning. Conversations born of a need to convert or win rarely result in lasting progress. Connection requires creative thinking and a measure of courage. Whether on a personal level, in the workplace, or in the most convoluted of socio-political environs, solutions to multi-layered challenges cannot be summed up in sound bites, and always require on-going dialogue.
5) Listen more than you talk. Ah! Here is the rub. To the degree that conversation is merely what we tolerate in order to make our point and present our agenda, there is no real connection. Dialogue is about erasing the whiteboard, and beginning anew. Dialogue invests in intentional listening – without agenda, in search of shared aspirations, because this is where connection occurs.
All of this flies in the face of a communication strategy that says identify your message and stay on point no matter the topic or specific question. Dialogue is hard work. It is not media or camera-friendly. Good sound bites are the accidental product of actual communication.
What if we resolved to be a part of better conversations? If just you and I were to commit, what opportunities might be discovered?