Choosing Conversations that Connect
Yesterday a friend said to me: “I’ve switched off politics. I can’t stand listening to the yelling and name calling and putting each other down. I don’t trust them. I wish we had a leader like Jacinda Ardern”.
My friend and I are not alone in wanting to hear more public conversations that demonstrate keen and curious listening, respect and compassion… a safe space where people can be truly heard for what matters to them and where ways to meet genuine needs are explored without judgement.
Those that embody this way of being do truly stand out – like the Jacinda Ardern’s of this world. And – we can all grow this consciousness and skill set. The solution is within us all (and the tools readily available) if we choose.
Learning a New Consciousness of Conversation
There was a time when communication skills were thought of as a “soft” skill. Today neuroscience firmly tells us that when we live reactively out of our triggers, the likelihood that we can connect with others is minimised (See Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain). Conversely when we learn to pause, connect with what’s triggering us – and disconnect from the stories we are living out of – we can get below the chaotic surface conversations that leave us depleted and instead connect over what really matters to us.
It is time for us to get in partnership with our brains and learn how to make more aware conversation choices… whatever the context of our leadership. We can all demonstrate compassionate connection if we set the intention and learn a new consciousness of conversation.
3 Key Insights about the Brain and Conversation
As a politician, journalist or communications manager (or other leader in the public domain) how does your conversation change by knowing the following 3 things?
- When you “listen to connect, not judge or reject” (Judith E. Glaser, Conversational Intelligence®), when you ask questions from a place of curiosity (questions you do not have the answers to) and when you are open to influence, your audience are likely to move towards you with openness and a willingness to share what really matters to them – a willingness to explore and make suggestions.
- When your conversation comfort zone is telling, informing and instructing (in order to influence others) your audience slip into “wait and see” mode. There’s enough distancing that you can completely fail to connect.
- When you are “triggered” and launch into attack (naming, shaming, blaming, judging, yelling) you lose connection in the moment with yourself and others and your audience fall into resistance and scepticism.
If we look at the neuroscience and if we explore approaches like those proposed by the Centre for Nonviolent Communication, Conversational Intelligence® and other similar approaches, a key reason why people are disconnecting becomes pretty evident. When we live from our triggered reactions and the stories we create we fail to effectively and compassionately engage.
Imagining How Life Might Be
I invite you to stop and take a few minutes out to imagine (savour, sense into) how it would be to be choosing to create compassionate (while task focused) conversations in your own area of influence – consciously living the intention to “listen to connect not judge or reject”. What would be the impact? In you? In others? This is not about how one “should” or “should not speak”. We don’t need a fundamentalism of conversations. This is beyond party politics. This is about our common humanity. Let’s make naming, shaming, yelling and blaming “so last century”!