I feel like the world is getting louder and louder.
It’s been an animated political season, to put it mildly. As someone who lives in the D.C. area, I can attest that there are not many evenings during which we don’t get a call from a zealous campaign volunteer asking to discuss the position of their candidate with my husband or me.
Do they practice talking for two straight minutes without coming up for air? Because rarely do I hang up the phone feeling like I was a part of a discussion.
You see, most of us believe a discussion involves a back and forth exchange. But often, just like with the recent campaign-related phone calls, back and forth is really not the objective.
If I’m being honest with myself, I also have to say that in the course of my 20+ year marriage I’ve asked my husband to sit down and have a rational discussion with me countless times, when what I really meant was “will you please sit down, listen and agree with me?”
When we don’t see eye to eye with someone we often suggest, “let’s discuss.”
I remember as a kid that my parents never fought. But if things seemed intense my mom and dad told my sister and I that they were having a “discussion.” So, in fact, a discussion is actually when one person is trying to convince the other of their position. If things get too heated, discussions tend to end in arguments, and you may be, at this very moment, remembering a recent discussion that perhaps did not go as you had planned.
As a business coach who deals primarily with trust issues, I find that when we believe someone doesn’t understand our position, we feel we must convince them in a discussion!
Now, I do believe that debate can be healthy and that conflict is not all bad. But it all comes down to the intention of your conversation.
Here are a few soul-searching questions we should all ask ourselves before engaging in our next conversation:
- What is the role you intend to play in this conversation?
- What is your real motivation for wanting to engage in this conversation?
- Are you expecting feedback or simply sharing information?
- Is the topic of the conversation one in which you have emotional equity?
The best reason to have a conversation (a form of communication between two or more people) is that you’re genuinely curious about the other person’s reaction, input and feedback on a particular topic – and, to get in that mindset, I have a suggestion:
I want you to turn your conversations into dialogues rather than discussions.
A dialogue is a conversation in which:
- Your intention is to seek to understand.
- Your role is that of a curious listener.
- Your motivation is to learn.
- You keep your emotions at bay, focusing on what you’re hearing rather than what you’re feeling or thinking.
Well, that ought to be a piece of cake, right? While it certainly can be easier to dialogue when there isn’t something important at stake, the value of being in dialogue mode in any conversation is immeasurable. But whether there is or isn’t something major at stake, how do you keep your own emotions at bay and focus on what you are hearing, rather than what you are feeling or thinking?
In the next post I’ll share great dialogue techniques and how to employ them in Part 2 of Take Your Conversations Out of the Danger Zone – The Value of Dialogue Over Discussion.