ENGAGING IN COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS
Many discussions we have at with each other “feel” intractable. Intractable conflict exists when multiple parties see something in concept or form in opposite or dramatically different ways. Conflict of this type is categorized as “Protracted.” “Destructive.” “Deep-rooted.” “Resolution-resistant.” “Intransigent.” “Gridlocked.” “Identity-based.” “Needs based.” “Complex.” “Difficult.” “Malignant.” “Enduring.”
The result of intractable conflict is normally some form of technical or procedural gridlock. This can also create situations where people take it upon themselves to “take action” on their own to solve the problem at hand. Intractable conflict itself is very difficult to resolve. Think about conflict in the Middle East as intractable. Now if we reflect on the idea that the discussions and challenges “feel” intractable vs. the reality in our situation, it is more likely that our discussions and disagreements are very solvable but with the caveat of communication overhead. Communication overhead meaning, we have to work hard to communicate more often with clarity of outcome, desired results, humility, courage and compromise. We have to ask and challenge ourselves as we challenge others in active dialogue.
When two or more people converse to deepen understanding or make an informed decision, they are engaging in two types of conversations – dialogue and discussion.
- Dialogue is a reflective learning process in which two or more people seek to understand each other’s viewpoints and deeply held assumptions. It is a conversation in which talking and listening by all parties creates a flow of meaning. Out of dialogue emerges a new and shared understanding. Dialogue is a tool for collective exploration of meaning – not a search for the right answer or the best solution.
- Discussion is a conversation in which two or more people intend to come to some form of closure – by either making a decision, reaching agreement, or identifying priorities. Discussion involves convergent thinking focused on tasks. While two or more people build deeper meaning along the way, the real purpose is to come to a meeting of minds and reach some agreement.
Conversations require passion, integrity, authenticity, and collaboration.
Both dialogues and discussions are considered “courageous” when the participants are able to expose the values and check the validity of the assumptions that underlie their actions and views. Building an atmosphere of trust and respect is key to both enabling individuals to participate in courageous conversations and establishing a culture in which courageous conversations and feedback are seen as necessary for improvement.
1. Based on Peter Senge et al., The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday/Currency,1994). Used with permission.
The Seven Principles of fierce Conversations
- Master the courage to interrogate reality.® Are your assumptions valid? Has anything changed? What is now required of you? Of others?
- Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.® When the conversation is real, change can occur before the conversation is over.
- Be here, prepared to be nowhere else.® Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person.
- Tackle your toughest challenge today.® Identify and then confront the real obstacles in your path. Confrontation should be a search for the truth. Healthy relationships include both confrontation and appreciation.
- Obey your instincts.® During each conversation, listen for more than content. Listen for emotion and intent as well. Act on your instincts rather than passing them over for fear that you could be wrong or that you might offend.
- Take responsibility for your emotional wake.® For a leader there is no trivial comment. The conversation is not about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship. Learning to deliver the message without the load allows you to speak with clarity, conviction, and compassion.
- Let silence do the heavy lifting.® Talk with people, not at them. Memorable conversations include breathing space. Slow down the conversation so that insight can occur in the space between words.
Establish Basis for Effective Questioning.
The basic elements of a courageous conversation include effective questioning. Effective questions have characteristics and are open ended, invitational, specific, evocative, biased either positively or neutral and have the ability to challenge assessments.
Let us consider the concept of emotion.
Being right does not make us effective.
Being effective does not make us right.
We may be solving the wrong problem with great analytical rigor! We must allow ourselves to be open to new things. The folks at Blockbuster thought they were right when they said “no” to the current CEO of Netflix. In 2000, Reed Hastings approached former Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and asked for $50 million to give away the company he founded — Netflix.
Antioco, thinking that it was a “very small niche business,” ended the negotiations and didn’t buy Netflix, which at the time was a DVD mailing service, according to Variety. Yeah, in 2015 it was worth 32.5 billion dollars. Today, 100 billion dollars.
What this means is just because you have expertise have done something for the past x amount of years doesn’t mean it will get you where you want to be in the future.
We all need to be self-aware enough to recognize when to listen and learn vs lecture. This means, we have to deal with our emotional complexity and set it aside for the power of possibilities.
Thank you Sammy! We work on effective and courageous conversations in our house.. You should too!