This high-tech age that we're living in allows incredible ease in communication. Sometimes too easy.
We are probably more effective when we pause and are mindful of our communications. Perhaps we shouldn't overindulge in so much upsetting or useless information. Maybe we shouldn't fire off the first text or email response that comes to mind.
When it comes to actual face-to-face time with real people, mindful communication can make all the difference in the world. The art of listening deeply and answering thoughtfully are challenged by our current distractibility.
As a coach, I am regularly reminded of of the difference that powerful conversation can make. Listening generously to others creates openings for awareness and action. It is startling how hungry we all are to be heard!
How can we communicate with purpose and generosity? Entire books and courses have been written about this topic. For me, I find that remembering and cultivating a few core attitudes in my relationships with others provides a strong foundation for the powerful conversations that I seek to create.
Here are four cornerstones that can help us build better conversations:
- Clarity — Our most productive conversations begin with a calm awareness of why we are interacting in the first place. Perhaps we are hoping to build a social relationship and find common interests and values. Maybe we are seeking to understand and support someone who is struggling. Perhaps we want to resolve a conflict and have our perspective be understood. Ask yourself: What do I hope or need to accomplish during this conversation?
- Curiosity — Whatever the purpose of our conversations, they are not meant to be one-sided or predictable. If we approach them with judgement or certainty, we are likely to create misunderstanding. When we allow ourselves to be curious, we create opportunities for new awareness and connection. Adopting a curious stance creates an atmosphere of generous listening, and we all appreciate the experience of being heard. Ask yourself: What is important to the person to whom I am speaking? What motivates and inspires them?
- Compassion — Generous listening allows us to connect more deeply with others, even if we don't agree with them. When we seek to understand someone's values, their dreams, and their challenges, it is possible to more fully appreciate their humanity. Ask yourself: If I were this person, how would I want to be treated? How can we both get what we need?
- Contribution — Just as we all want to connect and be heard, we all long to make a difference. Powerful conversation allows for some generous give-and-take — allowing all parties to feel acknowledged for their contributions. Ask yourself: How can I be generous and allow generosity in this conversation?
What about you? What attitudes and practices have helped you build better conversations? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!