One of the things that bedevils human communications is our mutual inability to conduct successful conversations. This affects everything from getting our kid to do their homework to solving conflicts between nations.
Our inability to get conversations right muddies everything – our relationships with our colleagues in our office, the way we deal with disputes or discussions with spouses, family and friends, the way we handle pay or conditions negotiations, the way we handle practical problems that arise where we need to involve other people, the way we sell ideas, products, and services, and the way we negotiate contracts.
So given that good, effective, workable communications are the key to just about every inter-personal dealing we have in life, it’s amazing that more work doesn’t go into making them simply work better.
The reasons we mess up conversations are many and various, both personal and organisational. But knowing why we mess them up, whilst it’s an interesting intellectual and psychological exercise, is ultimately only partly helpful, if what we really seek is an easy-to-understand mechanism to make them more successful. Consistently.
As a company that lives, eats and breathes mass communications, the effectiveness of our conversations is always front and centre in our minds. Whether a conversation is happening on the phone, in person, or perhaps via a training manual, an advertisement, or on a web page, we are constantly checking ourselves to see if we are obeying the rules of great conversations. So much so, that we offer you the following as an insight into how to actually have a great conversation – every time.
It applies mainly to face-to-face meetings, but with just the tiniest effort it applies to all conversations.
We often say in our office – “If only people would talk straight. If only people would talk in straight lines. Go from A to C via B, not Z. If only people would make it easier to get onto the same page, and stay there.”
And we’re sure our office – or family, or industry group, or political party, or neighbourhood watch team – whoever – isn’t wildly different from yours.
So we made a way. It’s by having DIRECT conversations.
And you know what? It’s dead easy. Here you go. Take it as our gift to the world.
DO. First and foremost – DO we know what we’re talking about? Is it agreed between us? Are there any shades of understanding of what we’re really talking about that need to be ironed out before we get into it? Have we tested with the other person that we share the same desired outcome from the conversation?
That’s done? OK. Next: IS the right person in the conversation? Can the people who are doing the talking actually effectively “close” the deal, resolve the issue, make a final decision. And if not, why not? What will the effect on the conversation be of them not being in it? Are we ready for that?
Who’s ultimately RESPONSIBLE for implementing any agreement we make in the conversation? Is it us, or will someone have to be briefed on what to do? If the latter, are we sure we will communicate the outcomes to the person clearly and unequivocally. And will THEY have an opinion that needs to be considered? If the answer is yes, should they be in the conversation from the start? Or does their opinion need to be part of our conversation from the start?
ENERGY – is there the same level of concern and determination to achieve a successful conversation on both sides? If not, why not? If not, how do we get to an equal level of passion on both the decision making and actionability? If we can’t, is there any point having the conversation at all? Do we need to return to D?
CLARITY – once we have had the conversation, is there absolute clarity on both sides as to what just happened, and what happens next? Can we both state the desired outcome in identical terms? Are there any shades of understanding that will trip us up down the track? If so, how do we iron those out?
TIME – whatever we agree has a timescale, whether it’s one minute from now, or a year from now or more. Is there an agreement on when the contents of our conversation will have happened – will have been activated? If not, what is holding us back from putting a deadline on it? And if we have a deadline, have we agreed waypoints at which we will mutually check our progress?
D – do we know what we’re talking about?
I – is the right person in the room?
R – who’s responsible for the doing part?
E – is there equal energy?
C – have we achieved clarity on what happens next?
T – by when?
Did we just have a DIRECT conversation? If we did, we bet it was a successful one!
You’re welcome, world.
© DIRECT TALK is copyright to Magnum Opus Partners. You’re very welcome to use it and share it freely. In the future it will form part of a suite of tools to help businesses manage more effectively, especially in the area of communications.
You’re not welcome to nick it and pretend you came up with it, 😉 If you share it, please give us a pingback or a credit. Thanks!