Collaborative conversations

CollaborativeConversationsI remember having a very different opinion than a past manager as to how we should achieve our business goal. We both wanted the same end result, but had conflicting ideas as to what was the best way to get there. I’d come out of our conversations frustrated or totally indifferent (I had given up trying!). Then one day, I thought I’d change how I tackled the issue with him. I made our common purpose very clear from the beginning of our discussion, showed I valued his experience and ideas (which I totally did), probed him with thought-provoking questions and encouraged him with the actions he wanted to take. Like that, I turned our previously futile conversations into valuable exchanges.

How often have you like me come out of a conversation totally frustrated with the outcome – or lack thereof?

So many useless conversations happen everyday. I’m not talking about the weekend updates in the staff kitchen – these may often seem pointless but they actually help create stronger team affiliation. Useless conversations are purposeful conversations entered with the wrong mindset. It may be the wrong mindset because it focuses on the past rather than moving forward, because people involved in the conversation are too focused on themselves, their own needs and goals, or because the communication isn’t clear. For whatever reason, it is doomed to failure from the get-go.

A collaborative conversation, on the other hand, has people involved thinking ‘how can we make this happen together’ or ‘how can I help you help me’ (and vice versa). They have put aside their assumptions and entered the conversation with an open, adaptive and forward focused mind. They are willing to call and be called for their actions. Collaborative conversations also require deep awareness of our own perceptions and the fact that no two brains are alike.

To help facilitate a quality collaborative conversation, I have found the following to be helpful:

  • Establish the purpose of the conversation and the desired objectives from the outset
  • Demonstrate trust in the other person and the value of their opinion
  • Seek collaboration – not to win!
  • Seek to understand (which requires listening)
  • Be clear
  • Move forward

So much frustration could be avoided, issues solved, ideas uncovered, understanding created and wellbeing generated… if only we had the courage and the skills to have the right conversations. So it can be useful to at times ask yourself: am I having the right conversation with my peers, staff or managers in order to make my workplace a more productive, unified or enjoyable place to be? What conversation do I need to have with my partner or family to strengthen my relationships with them? What mindset will I be taking to approach these conversations?

Happy conversing! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Collaborative conversations

  1. I remember that day well. I was so impressed with that collaborative conversation (although I didn’t know it had such an impressive name at the time). It’s something that could work well in my current work. Thanks for the great post.

    • Hi Nicola,
      It didn’t have such an impressive name either… Thinking about it today though, it feels like just the right name for it. 🙂 I’m glad the post generated some helpful ideas.

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