Basic conditions for a good conversation
To give and to build trust is crucial when we desire to develop lasting, sustainable connections. In the chapter on trust we underlined how building trust is something you can actively develop in every conversation and every exchange you have, be it with a colleague or an audience member.
So, how to do that?
- Tell your partner in dialogue what your expectations are, the moment you start communicating to someone. Speak up when expectations are not met.
- Restart the dialogue every time you meet: redefine the connection and re-establish it. Check whether you and your partner in dialogue are still on the same page in terms of what the goal of the conversation is.
- Evaluate after every working process – not only evaluate the work and the tasks that were fulfilled, but also the dynamics between people and quality of the exchange.
- Do not make promises you cannot keep.
Most of us like to talk and be heard. But are you really listening when someone else speaks? Or are you simply waiting until it is your turn to speak?
- Practice active listening, especially if you don’t know the person in front of you that well yet. One way of doing this is by repeating what you think was said to you, before responding. This also acts as a way to check if your presumptions about someone else’s statement, question or comment are correct. Never underestimate how easy it can be for conversations to be misinterpreted.
Transparency about roles
In a good conversation there is a sense of equality between the partners in dialogue. Even if the partners in dialogue hold different hierarchal positions, this is possible. An awareness and acknowledgement of the roles and positions represented by both parties is key.
- State the obvious and mention from which position everyone involved is taking part in the conversation.
No matter what your position or role is, in a true dialogue each person needs to invest in the other equally, as without reciprocal exchange there will be no satisfactory result.
- Being equally invested means you both feel equally responsible for a good outcome of the conversation. You have to define what ‘a good outcome’ means to the both of you from the outset.
Having different personalities involved in a dialogue can be a challenge, however usually differences in character are not the biggest issue. Having different values or different opinions on modes of operation are usually hardest to overcome. To avoid any potential pitfalls:
- Define the values you work from at the beginning, and ask your partner in dialogue from which values s/he operates. ( see our identity chapter)
- Acknowledge how you prefer to work and be open about it. This makes it much easier to find partners in dialogue who share your values. Shared values often also create shared language and common ground.
Building a relationship over time
A sense of time pressure or pressure to see results right away usually gets in the way of building a good conversation. This does not mean that a good conversation is necessarily a long conversation. Building a conversation can also be about creating a series of encounters, instead of stretching the length of a single encounter, and in fact this may be a more effective strategy.
- Conversations usually become more interesting when the invitation to dialogue holds the promise of a long-term connection, rather than a one-time-only conversation.