The other night I was at a business reception and found myself sitting next to two people I didn’t know well. After about 15 minutes, I realized that we had been having quite a satisfying and provocative conversation. I felt like my brain had been challenged by new perspectives.
Meaningful, stimulating conversations like these have been on my mind lately, ever since reading the terrific new book, Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres. The authors are good friends who used their own conversations as colleagues and their combined years of field research as the basis for their important message.
They write that great conversations are rich, deep and allow for the creation of new images and metaphors. They can change how people think. These interactions are uplifting and energizing, positive and productive. Conversations can be critical and destructive, or they can be generative and productive.
Research for my book The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together, revealed that when opposites “Bring On The Battles” or face disagreement head on, they report stronger results than when they avoid conflict. I like the idea of adding a positive spin to these “battles”. For instance, asking the question, “What is the problem, complaint or thing you don’t want?” followed by “What is the positive opposite, the thing you want ?” and “…….What is the desired outcome?” give us helpful ways to reframe the dialogue.
Both Introverts and extroverts can connect and move their partnerships forward by adding questions like these to their interactions. Introverts, with their propensity for one-on-one explorations and depth in their connections, will appreciate the framework that allows them to go even deeper. Extroverts, with their natural connection to people, enthusiasm and ease in asking questions can use this framework to keep the dialogue moving forward in a positive direction. Both parties benefit.
And there are more reasons for having these conversations. Listen to what Cheri Torres told blogger and leadership expert Skip Prichard when he asked about why conversations don’t get enough attention in business.
“Conversations are such an integral part of functioning in the community that we take them for granted. Until recently, there was nothing drawing our attention to their importance. Research in the field of neurophysiology, however, is showing that conversations are integral to our capacity to access the executive center of our brain, the pre-frontal cortex, where higher order thinking, creativity, trust, good decision making, and the ability to connect are possible. Conversations that trigger fear or uncertainly stimulate the release of cortisol, epinephrine, and testosterone, shutting down access to the pre-frontal cortex and stimulating fight, flight, freeze, or appease. A good conversation has the power to shift the brain from a threat to safety, simulating a whole different set of hormones—oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These hormones help us reconnect, open up to what others have to say, and rekindle trust. Further research in positive psychology corresponds, showing that positivity in the workplace builds resiliency, high performance, innovation, and collaboration. Organizations that have taken this research to heart and have shifted leadership and management practices are discovering the amazing power of a great conversation – a conversation worth having.”
I also want to refer you to another wonderful book on this topic written by Maren Showkeir and the late Jamie Showkeir called Authentic Conversations: Moving from Manipulation to Truth and Commitment. The book “demonstrates how we can move to honest and authentic interactions: adult conversations that create increased commitment, true accountability, and improved business performance. They offer examples of parent-child and adult-adult workplace conversations in a variety of settings and provide a hands-on guide, including sample scripts, for dealing with a host of potentially difficult conversations.”
So let’s get off our phones and have an authentic conversation. How is that for an idea worth having?