As we live in the “new normal” way of life, now is the time to decide the conversations worth having. We may not have power over what is happening—but we do have power over how we respond and have a conversation irrespective of wearing the face mask. This is our opportunity to shape the conversations and networks we want to have.
Conversations Worth Having is the use of appreciative inquiry to frame conversations for growth opportunities and finding hope – and each other – even in the most tense and fraught circumstances. Conversation is a crucial part of everything we do. It influences our well being—a good conversation can leave us ready for anything, a bad one can ruin our whole day.
But most of us are unaware of the nature of our conversations, let alone how to make them consistently affirming and empowering. The use of Appreciative Inquiry, one of the most effective and widely used approaches for fostering positive change, will dramatically improve the outcomes of our conversations.
By focusing on what we want to happen instead of what we want to avoid, and asking questions to deepen understanding and increase possibilities, we expand creativity, improve productivity, and unleash potential, at work and home.
Beyond the above broad guidance, there are other rules for a good conversation:
Rule #1: Start small. Starting a conversation is the hardest part but the most important. Doing it successfully means finding shared experiences. So begin with small talk about the event you’re attending or how you know the host, comment on a food or drink item or point out something about the venue. If you’re desperate, there’s always the weather.
Rule #2: Find common ground. Take the conversation deeper by finding a common interest or topic you’re both passionate about and focus your discussion on it.
Rule #3: Share information. A good conversation requires equal contributions from both parties, which ultimately leads to an understanding. Just don’t share too much and monopolize the conversation. Keep the ratio as close to 50/50 as possible.
Rule #4: Ask questions. Move the conversation along with good, well-timed questions. They show that you’re attentive and interested. Be curious, and make sure your questions are open-ended (rather than yes or no) to keep the dialog moving.
Rule #5: Be polite. You may not agree with everything the other person is saying. That’s fine. Just be respectful of their opinions. Expressing your point of view is fine too; just don’t impose it on the other person, and don’t argue.
Rule #6: Be respectful. Be aware of the other person’s time. If it becomes clear they’d like to move on to another conversation with someone else, politely bring the discussion to a close and move on.
Nothing beats a great conversation, and – there’s nothing worse than a miserable one. With some practice, along with a few simple rules, we can spare ourselves the conversation-related agony people experience and enjoy the conversations worth having.