Have you ever had a conversation that seem to be going well and then it wasn’t? It could have been with a colleague, your boss, a team member, an employee or even your best friend. If you answered yes, you’re not alone, it’s happened to all of us.
Maybe it was that conversation that escalated into an argument, or you felt like you were talking in circles or worse you felt like you and the other person were in two completely different conversations. Regardless, you’re left wondering — what happened?
The good news is you can bring these conversations back from the brink of a full communication breakdown. The better news is, with a willingness to engage in real conversations that require you to listen differently, you can prevent them from happening in the first place.
Danger Sudden Communication Desert: Maintain Active Listening and Emotional Connection to Avoid The Communication Desert
A colleague was asked to take on a new and challenging responsibility. One that required him to step out of his comfort zone, work differently, and lead in an area he hadn’t led before.
The conversation was going well. And then, it entered a space I call the communication desert. Our entry into the desert had been so subtle that I didn’t notice when it happened. But now as I listened—it was clear we were stranded in the middle of a communication desert.
The communication desert is that space where two or more people are talking, words are being exchanged, heads nod, but you’re not having a conversation. Once you enter the communication desert the opportunity for new insights, problem-solving, and moving forward ceases.
My first thought was; How do I get us out of the desert? My second thought was: How did it happen?
Before I share the answer to both of those questions it will be helpful to explore a little more of the difference between communication and conversation—real conversation.
Conversation Versus Communication
Today, communication has come to mean giving information. In my experience, when a leader says she has communicated or had a conversation with her team she usually means she as given them information.
For example you host a town hall meeting or a team meeting to present a new idea. At the end of the presentation you ask: Are there any questions? You answer their questions and it appears you have had a conversation. Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, calls this type of conversation a positional conversation. In a positional conversation our focus is on giving information to persuade the other person or group to accept our idea.
Real conversations are different. Real conversations are interactive, dynamic, and they create the opportunity for new insights and learning. I have advocated for a long time about the need and value of real conversation to enable change. Judith Glaser calls this type of conversation transformational.