Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Courageous Dialogue... having the conversations most of us avoid

Communication can be one of the most complex aspects of relationships, whether it be personal or professional relationships. There is always the illusion that just because you are talking, that you are being heard, and understood. The reality is, that isn't quite how it works. 

We zone out!

That's right. In conversation people zone out.... then they zone back in.

I have read a number of research reports and some of the similar opinions are that:

  •  In 7 out of every 10 minutes we are in some form of communication with another person (that could be through email, listening, phone, in person, meetings, presenting, etc.)

  •   In a typical business day, we spend 45% of our time listening, 30% of our time talking, 16% reading and 9% writing. Listening is really the most important skill but the challenge I most frequently see is that people listen with filters on (their own judgements, assumptions, planning what they are going to say instead of actually absorbing what is being said, distractions, a past that shadows the current conversation, fear, etc.)

  •  Humans generally listen at a 25% comprehension rate

  •  The average person talks at a rate of 125-175 words per minute, listens at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but thinks at a rate of 1000-3000 words per minute. This processing gaps creates opportunities for challenges in listening, miscommunication, and misunderstandings. 

  •  Less than 2% of all professionals have had formal education or learning to understand and improve listening skills and techniques. When I was being trained and certified as a mediator, being educated on listening and speaking was a significant part of the program. Once I began mediating on a full time basis through the business we opened, I understood why. Listening is the most essential skill in courageous dialogue.

Recently I was interviewed by Jenn August on the Wealthy Warrior Mindset Tele Series, and we talked about this very topic, courageous dialogue.  I shared some of the common reasons misunderstandings occur: assumptions, preconceived solutions, drama, history and past, fear, unhelpful communication habits, and not listening. These are the most common pinch points that I see in the corporations that I provide training or team building for.

We also talked about the importance of mulligans.  The do-over in the moment. Far too often people say something they regret later, or miss an opportunity to clarify a misconception. The best rule of thumb is to be integral, transparent, and ask for a do-over or mulligan opportunity. This allows the conversation to get back on track.

I am reminded of Sarah, a team member in an organization I was called into facilitate a team building session for. Sarah was quick to respond, often jumped in emotionally to other's comments, and had such a nervous/agitated energy that the conversations almost took on an element of anxiousness.  In working with the team, I encouraged each of them to apply what I call The Three Second Rule. Breathe, then count to three slowly in your head before responding. This helped Sarah so much that her team began communicating with her differently. She seemed to relax and frame her statements in a way that were easier to hear.

You can listen to the rest of the conversation that Jenn August and I had and down load a special gift on courageous dialogue by following these links:

To access your free Coureagous Dialogue ebook go to:


Register and have access to the free interviews and recordings: https://beyondbusiness.infusionsoft.com/go/wmwcall/a227/

A Few Take Away Tips for Courageous Dialogue:

1. Prepare for the conversations that matter most. Think in advance about what you want to say and how you will frame it. What assumptions do you need to clear? Pick the right time, and the right place to meet.
2.  Set some courtesies for the conversation (such as "we all have different perspectives on the issue. Let's make sure we hear each other out without interruption and consider all perspectives." or "Can we commit to letting each other finish their thoughts without interruption?")
3. Clarify meaning and check intent rather than make an assumption about what someone means. Ask open ended questions (who, what, where, when, why and how).
4. Manage your thoughts, they shape how you communicate, what you hear and how you resolve situations.
5. Bring a collaborative mindset into the room with you. How you show up matters!
(and... remember to breathe!)


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