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 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
This book sounds like just in time training. It could be used on the spot in many situations.
Conversations are SO important! Too often leaders feel the need to be an orator or always tel and direct….conversations lead to trust and humanize the participants. Sounds like a great book!
Conversations and communication are so important. I will use these to enhance my conversation skills.
Awkward conversations are the hardest part of my job, especially in today’s market. It’s so easy to hurt someone’s ego while getting to the root of the problem.
This book sounds incredible! I work in the federal government and am always looking for ways to improve communication and progress!
What a great approach! “Practice #2. Use Positive Framing – Rather than trying to fix high turnover and vacancies, find out what makes people love coming to work at your organization.” Being in the same boat as so many other businesses, open positions and no applicants, we need to stop throwing darts (solutions) at the board and approach this from the view of those already here – if we can highlight what we love here, others may feel that passion and decide to come and try it, too.
I love the idea of getting curious when things are unclear and or hard. The curiosity can help focus on an outcome.
This book sounds incredible! I work for the Canadian federal government and am always looking for ways to improve discussions and have the important conversations in the best way possible. This would be a huge asset!
Oh I look forward to this book. Perfect timing
I love asking probing questions. However, removing my ego is always the hardest part.
Inquiring into others point of view and being curious about what lead them can be another powerful way to have a collaborative conversation, especially where there is conflict.
What a great tool to lead with our teachers, who are leading our youth toward a productive future.
Thankyou for this post- isn’t success measured by how we die? I am traveling from a favorite uncle’s funeral. I was impacted by the words shared in the message and his life.
It is how you die that makes a man successful- #1 love Jesus & #2 love others. Many tears were shed at his funeral by nieces, nephews, adopted children, etc. because Jesse tuned in. He cared about you when you talked. He showed us Jesus. He wanted his funeral message in three words. MEET ME THERE!
Thanks for the post!
Reading this had me thinking about the possibility of having a team member in our meetings have a role that focuses on ensuring our conversations are generative and positive…?
It’s not to say we would pass the responsibility of this off to them, but as we embark on creating the habit of these conversations, having someone focus on this and draw the group back to this way of conversing might help us develop these habits.
Looks like a good read. I could always use some saw sharpening in that area.
Love the concept.
Would be blessed to dig deeper on this one!!
Thanks for daily sharing the good stuff!!
The team needs to be heard to feel valued. I also like positive framing.
Wow! This book sounds amazing and seems so appropriate for communication issues in the world today. These conversation starters are exactly what is needed for connection with employees and co-workers.
I like this simple, but powerful, framework. I’ve learned over the years that the future really is dependent on our conversations.
If we talk of what we DO want, that may well preclude complaining. Grumbling and complaining brings everyone down. The goal is edification, to build up.
This looks great. I always try for a bit of deep breathing, but I really like the generative questions. Great stuff!
Great blog today, Dan! I am preparing for performance reviews with the team and some difficult conversations need to happen. I am going to try this positive approach.
As a new leader in healthcare, this is one of the best phrases I can think of. Talking about what you want, instead of what you don’t want….takes the tasking/micromanaging away and provides accountability and ownership toward a bigger picture. Conversations and quality time are key to a teams success.
I’m interested in conversations and how they help enhance relationships, especially in the church and how the church relates to the world. I think there may be some real wisdom here.
Conversations with positivity is essential today. I like the suggestion of trying to understand vacancies and high turnover by asking: What makes people love coming to work? So often I want to default to why did they leave. Focusing on the positivity can build morale and a stronger work culture.
I love the idea of talking about what you want to see rather than what you don’t! I have had to start talking with my team about timely responses and this is exactly the approach I took! In Principal #1, I really like the “How do you see it” question and will make sure I keep incorporating that in my conversations.
Loved “talk about what you want instead of what you don’t want!”
I can see how positive framing is a game changer! Giving too much energy to the discussion of what we don’t want outcomes to be steals the potential from the forward thinking conversations. The generation of beneficial ideas provides growth more than the discussion of those ideas that aren’t working. What would change in our workplaces if we began to focus more on the possibilities, rather than what we need to avoid?
You got me at Practice 1.
I often skip this, thinking that the other person thinks like me.
So I don’t ask “what assumptions are we making?” as I’m thinking they are reviewing their assumptions in their minds, as I would be trying to do in mine.
Making those visible will not only help them see their assumptions, it will make sure that what I think mine are, get tested out loud in front of them too.
I love these first two questions: “What assumptions are we making” and “How do you see it?” These open doors and give people freedom. I am probably too late, but I would love a copy of the Conversations Worth Having.
Both practices are simple and powerful, yet for some reason quite hard to master. Great advice!
This topic couldn’t have come at a better time. Initiating a difficult and awkward conversation is next to impossible. As a result – spirits shrivel, joy evaporates and time is wasted.
Bring it on.
Conversations really do matter and can really shape an organization. Would love to read and get more details
Changing the “attitude” of your conversation can be powerful. Such simple ideas yet we often fail to even consider them until it’s too late.
Great Topic and area to emphasize – Conversations take place all the time and are a major part of our work and life. But I wonder how many of us take them for granted- good to consider how well we communicate and are versed in truly effective communication skills.
Great information. Taking a deep breath to really focus and “tune in” is so important. Learning to effectively communicate is of utter importance and is lacking in so many today. Focusing our conversations on being constructive takes work because so many times our focus is self-preserving and reactionary. Looking forward to reading this book.
Conversations are the root of realization and shaping of a company
Conversation is a two way street. It involves the exchange of ideas and thoughts. But most importantly it involves listening. As a leader we must be a good listener if we want to improve the conversation. That’s why God gave us two ears and only one mouth!
It was powerful for me to hear that we should focus on what people love to stick around rather than why there is turnover which we are dealing with since COVID took over our lives.
I love the positive framing part. I have the fortunate opportunity to personally address new employees of an organization I have enjoyed serving for over 40 years. I spend most of the time explaining what I love about working here and being a part of an organization that matters to people. Conversations are essential to building personal and professional relationships that will make the difference in experiencing joy in the workplace.
The first piece of advice is one I find very important we defeat ourselves with assumptions if we aren’t incredibly clear when setting expectations for our direct reports.
Positive framing is so important to cultivate cooperation. I find keeping an inclusive dialog also helps, using we and us rather than you – which can sound accusatory is some situations. I think expressing joint ownership when appropriate promotes teamwork.
This is one of my favorite posts. It really crystallizes some basic leadership fundamentals combined with mindfulness in the workplace. I’m going to share this with my entire company. Thanks! (And I’d love a copy of the book)
I love this. I can’t wait to read this. These questions would have been helpful this past month!
To answer the question asked in the title… i would become a student of how to have effective conversations.
Sounds like a great read! Reminds me of Walt Whitman’s famous quote- “Be curious, not judgemental”. Would love to read this!
If you truly trust the people on your team, then you ask questions and listen. Don’t try to solution and overpower them with your own thoughts as to what to do. A lot of good comes from asking questions and getting your team to consider new ideas. Those are the conversations worth having and where some of the best solutions come from!
I love the generative questions! They probe behind the surface to get beyond the assumptions AND make people think. Thinking is good! Secondly, I believe the Get Curious questions are essential for self-awareness and self-reflection. All of us have preferences and habits, these questions push us to reconsider and stop and ask What is behind this? And, that is good.
I recently committed to being more intentional in avoiding conversations about the negative – what is always wrong and what needs to happen to “fix the wrong”. This tip truly resonated with me: Instead of fixing problems, talk about desired outcomes and how to achieve them.
Leadership Freak is my go to read on my work days, to motivate me and also remind me to watch and truly listen to my advertisers and co-workers, and learn better how to take great care of them.
Say what you mean, mean what you say. But be respectful and tactful.
Definitely looks like a worthwhile read. So many of us leaders often blow a conversation with colleagues & stakeholders. I’m reading a coaching book by Elena Aguilar right now & am seeing my many flaws. Thanks for sharing!
Creating a culture within an organization people want to be part of has never been more important. Great ideas were shared in this post to help leaders create a magnetic culture. Thanks for the insight and the reminder!
I struggled with framing my desires in the past. It easier to receive an acceptable feedback when your request is perceived in a positive light. I am still learning
Reading this post has made me reflect on some issues that I am currently having with employees at my place of employment. I am in a leadership position and am getting pushback about the way that they feel they are being approached with problems at the location they are working at. In just the information given above, I feel that I’ve learned some things to make the transitions we are asking of them go smoother. Thank you so much for the great information!
I love using positive framing in my work. It prevents others from feeling like they are being blamed for a problem and focuses on solutions!
I’m a leadership development consultant. This book would be a great recommendation for our book club. Leaders often want to be problem solvers which cause them to miss the opportunity to truly listen and hear their team members.
This would come at perfect timing!
I appreciate the humility in guarding against assumptions and inviting others into the conversation. Focusing on where we want to go and what we can do vs. the “Can’t/won’t” mentality is always a key element in maintaining upward development.
I’m probably too late for one of the books, but i very much all of your posts…the information is very helpful, ‘portable’ & always seems to come at the right time for a conversation or team meeting i’m about to start. Thanks!
Misunderstanding each other and not staying positive seem to be at the core of many conflicts.
Interesting that “Tune In” is having a conversation with yourself and not others. Previously, it was considered that if you talked to yourself, you need to see a doctor. It is good to pay attention to what is happening on the inside was well as what is going on outside. A lot of beliefs and assumptions have been tossed about in the last few years.
I appreciated the bonus video on “tuning in”. The reminder to pause is something I need to keep working on. Thank you!
This is a great blog post. Too often I think about what is wrong and how to “fix” it or make things better. I would love to learn more about the process or appreciative inquiry and protocols to use.
This book sounds like a great reminder of the importance of framing conversations so that they get to the heart of the issue at hand and the underlying challenges the team may be facing.
Having these types of conversations should be the goal of everyone on a team; not just the titled leader. It be difficult to have such conversations if the facilitator or leader is unwilling or unable to understand their role in outcome. There is a “next level” to emotional intelligence with these kids of conversations and they really out outcomes and solutions based, not people and problem based. Getting worthy topics on the table is so important to team and individual growth. One of the most difficult things I do as a leader is to try to talk my team into the solution instead of giving it to them; and to be okay if solutions are exactly the way I would do it, as long as the end product is a good one.
Dan, keep the book. I’ll buy my own. Better ROI than 5 Starbucks. Looks like you’ve hit a nerve. Another heading could be “Your Quality of Life Depends on Your Conversations” . With the workplace changing to more staying at home and using the internet to talk to one another what you say, how you say it, and getting your meaning across means so much more.
Thanks for being the spark.
Great alternative title, Marty.
“Am I certain I’m right, absolutely certain?” is always worth asking. Even if you think you are right… even if you are certain you are, interacting with others like you are open to options helps the conversation, and helps others feel heard and empowered… and sometimes you might be surprised to find there are still things you didn’t consider.
Great reminder. One of the most memorable lessons I learned in college was from a research professor who said that “the most important thing you can learn to do is ask good questions”. Thirty years later I am still trying to practice that lesson and this post has some great ideas to continue to work on that important skill.
All the comments make sense. It appears to be linked to Appreciate Inquiry. Peter
All the comments make sense. It appears to be linked to Appreciate Inquiry. Peter
So simple and yet so eye opening. Recently I have been trying to frame things more positive in all aspects of life, and it truly does make a difference. For such a quick and simple read today, it was very impactful and gives me a lot to think about for the remainder of the day! Thanks!
Conversations both personally and professionally are what make or break relationships! Looking forward to reading this book. I believe that over 95% of our problems have to do with conversations; lack of, inappropriate, not with the right meaning or words.
I would like a book
Very simple but yet so POWERFUL!! I work as a training at a Credit Union. When training our staff we really focus on positive language and how powerful it is! Now I want to expand that to include their strategy of Tuning In!
Conversations do matter! If we all spent as much time on creating solutions rather than lamenting over the negative aspects of our lives, our life experience would be totally different. I’m guilty myself. Thank you for bringing this to mind.
I LOVE this!! I have been working on crucial conversations and these tips are great. Unpacking our own assumptions are key. I love the reminder to pause and breathe! Thank you so much for the information.
Conversing to enhance relationship and understanding…my constant journey. Thanks for the post. Great reminders. I look forward to your book.
Thanks for sharing your insights. My constant journey is to improve my conversation in order to improve relationships and understanding. I need to read books like your at the beginning of every day.
As a manager I would often frame an issue by starting with the goal, as in “this is what I think needs to happen in the end” and follow that by saying that I think I know a way to get there but I think you may know better so I will leave it up to you. I found plenty of people want the instructions handed to them but leaving room for employees to work it out and make it better is a great way to find talent.
I look forward to reading this book! Conversations are a key ingredient to managing change and getting things done.
I like learn more about the importance in how we communicate, Currently, I am a mentor for a number of immigrants and professional. I am also doing some volunteering work as well. It is ver important for me to do it right. My past had been in the Human Resource area, communication is key, I want to enhance myself.
Looking forward to continue learning.
Good conversations are based on inner thoughts! They help you to look for better things and focus efforts to reach new aspirations. Corporate leaders use this trait to share their belief systems and values with their staff. They look for opportunities to talk to them and reinforce the company philosophy with good examples.
Conversations can be termed as an art and can be learnt with conscious efforts. Good reading, listening to useful talks and viewing the positive side of everything help in generating confidence to talk and share better.
In my earlier comments, the way you communicate is key to success. Peter
This is valuable information that helps to not only achieve better results but allows room for a collaborative environment. Can’t wait to read the book.
This book would be so helpful with conversations I need to have at work with my direct reports and at home with my 20+ son.
Communication is vital to success. Would love to read, glean and learn from this awesome book!
Yes, I love the opportunity to learn more.
It is always good to be intentional about making your conversations proactive rather than reactive. Your approach to the conversation is just as important as the words themselves.
Conversations are relationships. The tools support and maintain the personal and work relationships! The ideas and concepts are essential.
I love the use of positive, affirming verbiage in the snippets from the book. Many leaders start right out with negativity when something has gone wrong or someone’s behavior is out of line. Talking about the desired outcome of the challenge or preferred behavior is a much better way to get a positive response from those you are speaking with. It will lessen the likelihood they will put up their defenses causing them to engage in a positive manner with you to help find solutions to promote the desired outcome.
Just remember – Good conversations start out with listening first. Listening is a skill. Practice it. Love the concepts and the direction that these two conversationalists go!
Have always believed in asking questions to find out what people think and why. There is always room to improve this skill and the authors are well experienced to do this.
Some great advice and helpful conversation starters. I would also add when tuning in to ask yourself if being right is what matters right now
Would love a copy, thanks!
Love this and very interested in the book. Goes right along with the coaching mindset I *try* to have in all interactions. Looking forward to checking it out!
Make it human. Good Presteners always give a breather to their audience. Do not preach or sell instead be as intimate as talking to a close friend.
Would love to get hands on a copy of this provocatively titled book!
“What makes people love coming to work in your organization?” Reframing our hiring strategy using this mentality could be a game changer! Thank you.
The way someone talks to me sometimes sets up how I feel about our relationship going forward. Sounds like a great book.
Figuring out the desired outcome, as opposed to just fixing things, seems to be a great move. Sometimes the problem isn’t as great as just tweaking how to get to the solution
My favorite question to ask at the end of individuals is “What is the most important thing on your mind right now that we haven’t talked about?” It’s a great question to find out what is important in your organization and it gives people a chance to sell their new ideas, thoughts and visions.
I picked this up from a book I recently read on critical/crucial conversations.
Knowing that I don’t know, knowing what we value and keeping the moving from the former to the latter helps me go into difficult conversations.
I just had a conversation with a group of participants about positive framing yesterday. We were talking about giving and receiving feedback. I love this path of appreciative inquiry and positive framing. 🙂
Asking the right questions and listening to the respondent’s answers are key. Good communication is vital and should always be two-way.
This would be a perfect training tool for my directs. I have a specific situation where one of my supervisors has not fully separated herself from her team in terms of stepping up into the role of supervisor. We are discussing reframing conversations so she is aware that there is a way to show understanding while not commiserating to such a degree that others feel she is a peer still.
I’m intrigued! Sounds like a book with actionable ideas, that are so important these days! Love the idea of positive framing …
This book seems like it could really help with having conversations with my teachers.
Great read! I was able to share these tips with my team and look forward to putting into practice myself.
Timely topic for me! Excited for more
Powerful article, and the book sounds thoughtful and engaging!
Your new book sounds very interesting. Having been in HR most of my career, I would love to have a copy to help me with all types of conversations.
Excellent material! Being more aware of ourself and others is a must for leaders!
Pausing in a stressful situation is so hard even more important at those times. Tuning in to your emotions and using conversation to understand theirs is a lifelong practice for me (and I do mean *practice*).