What Would You Do If Your Future Depended on Your Conversations?

Thanks to Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres, authors of, Conversations Worth Having, for this guest post.

Conversations Worth Having, book cover. Talk about what you want instead of what you don't want.

Conversations matter. They strengthen relationships, improve well-being, and help us succeed…or drag us down, zap energy, and leave us languishing.

What if you used words to have conversations worth having? 

Two simple practices and one condition enable anyone to turn any interaction — anywhere, anytime, any situation—-into a conversation worth having.  

Practice #1. Ask Generative Questions.

  • Make the invisible visible. “What assumptions are we making?”
  • Create shared understanding. “How do you see it?”
  • Generate new knowledge. “How are others handling this issue?”
  • Inspire possibilities. “What could we do that might cut our costs in half?”

These questions inspire new imagery and actions. 

Practice #2. Use Positive Framing.

  • Talk about what you want, instead of what you don’t want.
  • Instead of fixing problems, talk about desired outcomes and how to achieve them. For example, rather than trying to fix high turnover and vacancies, find out what makes people love coming to work at your organization.

Condition: Tune in.

Tuning in expands your awareness and primes you to deliberately choose your words instead of being influenced by unexamined assumptions, biases, expectations, fears, and beliefs. Here’s a simple technique to tune in:

  • Pause. Stop.
  • Breathe. Deep breathing reduces stress, widens your vision, and boosts your ability to think critically, be creative, and act choicefully. 
  • Get Curious. Expand your awareness by asking, “What’s going on with me? Am I certain I’m right, absolutely certain? What don’t I know? If I’m not right, what else might explain this?”

These practices change the trajectory of the future. 

What might you do to make sure your conversations are worth having?

How might leaders embed these practices into organizational culture?

Bonus video: Tune into yourself so you can tune into others.

Cheri Torres is CEO and lead catalyst of Collaborative by Design, a consulting firm that helps organizations improve performance, retain talent, and transform communication and culture. Torres has more than 35 years of leadership, teamwork, strategic planning, and culture transformation experience.

Jackie Stavros is management professor at the College of Business and Information Technology, Lawrence Technological University, and an Appreciative Inquiry advisor at the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry. Stavros has more than 30 years of leadership, strategic planning, and change management experience.

Stavros and Torres have been researching, writing, consulting, and speaking on Appreciative Inquiry since 1996 and are co-authors of Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement. Download a free conversational tool kit and learn more at www.cwh.today 

Social Media Links

Cheri Torres: LinkedIn; Twitter: Instagram 

Jackie Stavros: LinkedIn; Twitter; Instagram