Today is Thursday, so this post is on conversation skills.
My friend, Pamela Culpepper, gave me an interesting book last week, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope for the Future. Margaret Wheatley is the author. Dr. Wheatley is an alumna of one of my alma maters – the Harvard Graduate School of Education (we both did our doctoral work there) and the author of one the most innovative leadership books I’ve ever read, Leadership and the New Science. If you haven’t read it, I suggest that you check it out.
In Turning to One Another, Dr. Wheatley outlines six points for effective conversation.
- Acknowledge one another as equals.
- Stay curious about one another.
- Recognize that we need each other’s help to become better listeners.
- Slow down to have the time to think and reflect.
- Remember that conversation is the natural way for humans to think together.
- Expect it to be messy at times.
Here is my take on these six common sense points.
- You cannot have a good conversation if you don’t recognize one another as equals. Regardless of your hierarchical relation to the other person – if he or she is your boss, peer or subordinate – remember that we are all human beings. As such, we are entitled to respect and dignity. Talk with people, not to them and you’ll be surprised at the quality of your discussions.
- People are fascinating. I have had some of the most interesting conversations with limo and cab drivers. Often they are immigrants. It’s interesting to hear their take on life in the USA. Be curious about the people you know too. People are always growing and changing. When you express your curiosity you’ll be bound to find out new and interesting things about old friends and acquaintances.
- Help others listen. Think before you speak. Speak clearly. Ask them questions; answer the questions they ask you. Remember, communication is a process fraught with potential misconnects. So listen hard to others and make it easy for them to listen to you.
- When you slow down, you do indeed have time to think. Don’t be afraid to pause and reflect on a question. This shows the other person that you are carefully considering your response – not just saying the first thing that comes to mind. Other people will appreciate you for your thoughtfulness, not knock you for not being quick or clever enough.
- I love this one – “conversation is the natural way for human to think together.” The idea of “thinking together” is great in my book. The world would be a better place if we all “thought together” instead of thinking separately and trying to convince others that our thoughts are better than theirs. Since this is the season, I’d love to see a presidential debate where the candidates worked together to develop an approach to handling a problem or issue – instead of watching them advance their ideas while taking swipes at others’ ideas.
- Conversation is messy. That’s OK. In fact, I think it’s great. Some of the best ideas come out of messy conversations. The willingness to get into the mess and slop around is what frees your creativity.
I really like Turning to One Another. If you’re interested in becoming a better conversationalist – and you should be – pick it up, read it and think about what Dr. Wheatley has to say. More important, put her ideas to use.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Log on to my website www.BudBilanich.com for more common sense. I had decided to close down my other blog: www.CommonSenseGuy.com to concentrate on this one. However, several people have suggested that I leave it up even if I plan no more posts. It seems as if they feel that what I’ve written there over the past few years is valuable content and deserves its place in cyber space. So, I am going to leave up www.CommonSenseGuy.com. I may even post there every once in a while. If you enjoyed it, don’t cancel your RSS feed. This means that if you want a free ebook version of my book 4 Secrets of High Performing Organizations, you can still get it by logging on to www.CommonSenseGuy.com.
I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open. Please go to www.FirstGiving.com/TheCommonSenseGuy to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.