The Art, Science and Power of Conversation

…imagine …. you genuinely turned up to listen and to converse around a shared purpose; just think of how different those meetings would be…and imagine how much more effective they could become Mark Cole, Leadership Development Programme Manager, London Leadership Academy, NHS. 

There are multiple ways of talking to each other. We can hurt or heal, take or give, hinder or advance, connect or become distanced, discourage or bring hope. We talk to argue, win a debate, discuss, dialogue, gossip, impress, convince, persuade, gain sympathy, obtain information, gain favour, manipulate, direct …………… We talk to each other to share, convey useful information, illuminate, explain, build understanding, recreate memory, address crucial matters, affirm …….

Intention is key. Why we talk and what results is a function of our intention. Good intention brings insight, makes sense out of confusion, breaks down barriers, forges connection, cultivates appreciation and listening, stimulates the imagination, improves engagement, raises awareness, widens horizons, brings additional viewpoints, motivates, allows for constructive and equal partaking, fosters positive change. Good conversations are literally good for us, our well-being!

(When we experience negative interactions (an insult, criticism, a snide remark, uncomfortable conversation, argument) it’s like taking a slow-release pill: we produce cortisol. This increases our sensitivity, leads to our withdrawal from others, and makes us feel negative for quite a while. Even after the effect has worn off, it may reside in our unconscious).

On the other hand when we experience positive comment and conversation we produce the feel-good hormone oxytocin. This makes us far more likely to connect, trust and collaborate).

Good conversations are more needed now than ever before. The veracity of meaningful conversation is accentuated in a world characterised by increasing diversity, independence, divisions, lazy thinking due to external information and memory capacity; by declining attention spans, focus and communication skills; by pressure to respond faster and better to new challenges and changes; and by emerging and growing needs for meaning, purpose, belonging, and safe places to be real….. Good conversations, like narrative, have infinite potential for introducing the possible, the positive and the well-balanced in both individual and organisational life, for personal and organisational culture development ….

Conversation lies at the heart of our CultureScan Process. Professionally – facilitated conversations, for example within anecdote circles, are used to explore ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ thoughts and feelings.

Our CultureScan process (www.culturescan.biz) offers the means for organisations and their people to dive deep incredibly quickly and to get straight to the heart of a pressing issue, a business imperative. To hone in on and expose what the real problems or challenges are. To mobilise ownership and enable people to move forward together deftly, in terms of solution and envisaged outcome. Accelerator and multiplier dynamics come into play. Positive tipping points needed for widespread change come about in a short space of time.

In carrying out CultureScans some organisations uncover a need to improve certain conversational skills and we provide customised training and coaching in areas such as:

  • Attentive and appreciative listening , focusing and attending

  • Mindful awareness and reflective practices

  • Thinking laterally and developing non-dualistic thinking

  • Using anecdote, metaphor and story effectively

  • Building rapport and empathy

  • Talking and sharing with our words, bodies, gestures, and balancing intellect and emotion

These are conversational and leadership skills that apply at all levels and have sometimes proved to be the cherry on top of CultureScan initiatives. Organisations address their issues, challenges and opportunities by embarking on CultureScan initiatives AND go beyond to further leverage a conversation culture.

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