One Foolish Conversation And Three Keys to Skillful Conversation

One foolish conversation can pollute an entire team.

If we understood the pervasive power of conversations, we’d open our mouths with greater care.

We’ve all tried to make things better, only to make them worse by saying something stupid.

3 keys to skillful conversation:

#1. Hunger to learn and understand.

Many conversations are pooled ignorance. Incompetent leaders tend to think they know before they’ve learned.

Those who know the least often feel they know the most.

Those who most need to learn can’t see their own ignorance.

If leadership is about people, be a student of people.

  1. Learn about strengths, weaknesses, and values. Energy goes up when you talk about what matters.
  2. Learn about rhythms of energy. When are people at their best and worst?
  3. Learn about negative triggers and energy givers.
  4. Learn what people really do and why they do it.

#2. Share stories:

  1. Where were you brought up?
  2. How did you get into your current job?
  3. What do you do for fun?

You see the heart when the eyes go bright. While listening to stories, watch people light up. If you want people to bring heart to work, understand what makes them tick.

Problem-solving, solution-finding, and feedback-giving improve when we know each other’s stories.

#3. Establish understanding.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

Repeat what you heard to establish understanding.

  1. “I hear you saying….”
  2. “You’re making me think….”
  3. “Is this what you mean….”
  4. “I’d like to be sure I understand….”


  1. The conversation you dread is more important than the one you enjoy.
  2. You can respect people even when you disagree.
  3. Cut your talk-time in half and ask, “What else would you like to know?”

Conversations done well energize teams and make organizations better.

How might leaders improve the quality of their conversations?