Are you having the Real Conversation – nothing changes without it

Prefer to watch on video rather than read?  Click here for the video, 4 minutes, with captions.

You’re in a work conversation, and you’re just not getting through.  And it matters.  It needs to get through. 

So you regroup and go again.  Because you’re not someone who gives up easily.  And you get the same result, they either

  • Agree, but you know they’re not going to do anything about it
  • Explain in detail the situation which makes it so it’s not really a problem
  • Suggest that it definitely be brought up at the future ‘strategy day’

And the numerous other approaches, none of which give you any movement forward.  You’re frustrated.  Maybe doubting yourself.

Your Music

What’s happening here is that you are focussing on content.  The rational, objective, tangible arguments.

Which means you are playing music.  They are not liking the music.  And what you are doing is turning the music up louder.

You can’t someone to like your music by turning it up louder.

You need a different approach, which involves recognising that the conversation has moved from Content to Process.  It’s no longer about what, it’s about how you are connecting, it’s about what’s really going on.

You need to move the conversation to “What’s going on here?”

How to Do It

How is this done?  If you have a strong relationship already, you can literally ask “What’s going on here?”.

If you don’t already have a strong relationship, you might need to introduce it a little, with something like “I can tell this isn’t really working for you, I’m just wondering how I might need to come at this?”

What you’re looking for is that magic spot where it both suits your style, and is in the language and tone that helps them discuss what’s really going on.  I find myself saying “This isn’t really floating your boat is it…what are you dealing with?”

What Authenticity Means

The name of the game here is authenticity.  Not the authenticity where you decide to tell someone what you really think of them, but the definition of authenticity put forward by brilliant author, consultant and community-changer Peter Block, which is

Authenticity is your ability to put your actual experience on the table.

Which means if you think you’ve got something of value, and you’re surprised and disappointed that it doesn’t seem to be getting through…then that’s your experience!  So that’s what you put on the table.

And the trick….to do so without losing connection.  Which means no accusing, no implying it’s the other person’s problem.  Just putting on the table your experience, which both invites and helps them to put their own experience of you on the table as well.

And now you might just get somewhere.

Of course, this is easy to say.  The first few times you try it, you’re going to mess it up.  So try it in a situation that’s low impact with people you’ve already got a reasonable relationship with.  But just like we can talk about tennis all we like, but we can’t improve until we get out on the court and hit some balls…the only way you get good at this is to practice.

Bringing it Home

Get good at recognising when the conversation has moved from Content to Process.  Then get good at finding your way of getting to what’s really going on by figuring out how to put your experience on the table while maintaining connection.

Do this, and you’ll be having the real conversation, and you’ll be able to get things moving.

Now, over to you…

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