people talking to each other silhouettes set 9Where change is the objective, 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, here are five ideas that will instigate more productive conversations.

1) Avoid the devils you know. These come in all shapes and sizes. They may legitimate, or the ghosts of mountains made of mole hills. And while understanding the past is one of the ways to avoid repeating it, conversations that begin with the problems of yesterday rarely last long enough to break new ground. Progress is born of shared aspirations. Better conversations search for common ground.

2) Pass on the blame game. Everyone plays it. So much so that the language of blame (or CYA) is able to masquerade as analysis. Conversations designed to affix blame are almost always a waste of time.

3) Change the conversation. Insist on engaging in the same debate, making the same case, offering the same retort, and we should expect the same result. Want to stand a discussion on its ear…maybe make progress? Drop pre-conceived agendas. Try a new goal — to build a bridge to the next conversation.

4) Be about a Solution rather than a Win. Conversations designed to convert or win rarely change anything. 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 or measured in winnable moments. (Revisit #3, above.)

5) Listen more than you talk. To the degree that conversation is what we put up with in order to make our point and present our agenda, communication will almost certainly be limited. Real conversations begin with intentional listening – where the only agenda is a relentless quest for common ground.

All of this flies in the face of a communication strategy that says create your message and stay on point no matter the topic or specific question. Dialogue is hard work. It is not media or camera-friendly.

What if we resolved to be a part of better conversations? If just you and I were to commit, what opportunities might be discovered?