Constructive Conversations

June 23, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

In all professional environments, conversations take place. Conversations can be effective or futile, positive or negative, argumentative or collaborative, and so forth. Not everyone is an expert communicator, so what do you do when you need to have a tough conversation with an employee, but you just don’t think you can do what difficult conversations require of you?

Well, as we know, communication is a skill. It’s about getting a message across accurately, while receiving the other’s intended message. A conversation includes the process of this exchange. Did you see that last word: exchange? This is, conveniently, what’s forgotten or abandoned in most conversations. It’s left out because letting another speak, when you have your mind made up, can be a really tough thing to do. Plus, in some cases, people believe that the simple act of letting another talk freely – somehow suggests that they are surrendering their view or admitting to being wrong. AND THIS IS WHY CONVERSATIONS ARE SO CHALLENGING. We assume that unless the person on the other end changes his/her mind and comes into agreement with us, well then, our conversation was ineffective. We associate conversation success with agreement, harmony and similarity. But, this is where we have it wrong.

Why do we do this? If you wanted pizza, and I felt like sushi – neither of us would have a “bad appetite,” we’d simply have specific appetites that don’t happen to be similar. If you preferred to bike, and I opted for the bus – neither of us would have the “wrong transportation,” we’d simply have the right transportation for our needs. So, why – when it comes to conversations – do we think it ought to be any different? It’s not about you convincing me you’re right, or me standing ground until you admit you’re wrong – neither of these actions is all that advantageous for anyone. Instead, it’s about building a constructive conversation.

Constructive: productive, valuable, beneficial, worthwhile.

Did you see that I said building a constructive conversation? It must be actively done – it can’t be assumed that it will just happen automatically. Now, when you decide that doing this is worth your while, here’s where you can take the reigns and run with it. To build a constructive conversation, you need five things.

  • A goal and/or purpose. First, there must be a reason you’re meeting. Identify it. Explicitly.
  • A good setting. Don’t just meet anywhere, anytime. Be intentional and thoughtful.
  • Willingness. Both parties must be open (to a degree) to have the conversation that needs to happen.
  • Respect. Regardless of feelings toward one another, each party should respect the other.
  • Time. Establish parameters and expectations for how long you will talk and when you will meet again.

Simply said – “Communication works for those who work at it.” ~ John Powell

Looking for more insights about coaching? Check out more from Doug at his blog at

Doug C. Watsabaugh, senior partner at WCW Partners, understands how to meet your unique performance challenges. With more than 20 years of experience, WCW Partners is a performance-improvement company that helps businesses revitalize their results and achieve record-breaking performance.

If you are looking to excel in sales, service or leadership, let Doug develop the capability in you!

Article Source:

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Prev Post:
Next Post: