Conversational Intelligence

Having great conversations make an incredible difference to your results!

The following is based on the book Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glasser 

  • Glaser argues that your success depends on your ability to hold a high-quality, trusting conversation. 
  • Judith Glaser was an organizational anthropologist who founded The CreatingWE Institute and wrote seven books. She worked with many high-profile companies and wrote for and coached business leaders. 

The Importance of Good Conversations to Human Connection 

  • Glaser claims that good conversations change how we see the world, how we act, and how we come across to others. 
  • Archaeological research shows that humans first started speaking with each other 50,000 to two million years ago to help each other create stone tools. 
  • Glaser feels that all success depends upon your ability to hold a good conversation, but most leaders only initiate poor conversations. 
  • The authors of Crucial Conversations agree with Glaser that good conversationalists are more productive and react faster to financial downturns. 

Defining Conversational Intelligence 

  • A good conversation is one in which you build a dialogue with others, innovate together, let ideas change and evolve, and focus on your community, rather than on yourself. 
  • As a leader, you want most conversations in your workplace to be high-quality conversations that lead to the best outcomes and higher employee happiness. However, focusing on yourself all the time will eat up your time and make you less productive. 
  • As a conversationally intelligent leader, you might facilitate a successful mediation between two employees, whereas a less intelligent leader might resort to unsuccessful mediation tactics. 
  • Glaser contrasts good conversations with other types of conversations, such as ones in which you simply exchange factual information or try to move the other person to take your position. 
  • Emotional intelligence helps you understand and regulate your emotions, and steer a conversation to foster trust. 

Trust is the Foundation of a Good Conversation 

  • Glaser writes that high-quality conversations are built upon a foundation of trust. Without trust, you won’t be able to create a collaborative, functional working environment. 
  • Trust in your workplace interactions facilitates strong chemistry among employees and a willingness to go above and beyond normal responsibilities. 

The Neurological Underpinnings of Trust 

  • Every time you meet someone new, your brain must decide if they are an ally or an enemy. If the other person is an enemy, you can’t have a productive conversation with them. 
  • If you decide the other person is an ally, your brain releases oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, which help you feel open to their input and to being collaborative. 
  • Oxytocin makes you more trusting and connected to people you already know and trust, but paradoxically makes you less trusting of people you don’t already know. 

The Compounding Negative Effects of Distrust 

  • When we don’t trust someone, we start creating mental narratives about them that reinforce our distrust. This makes us behave defensively and out of character, which continues to alienate others. 

How to Become Conversationally Intelligent

1: Answer Five Questions in Every Conversation 

To establish trust, ask yourself five questions about the person you’re talking to and make sure their answers indicate a positive attitude toward your organization. 

  1. Do I need to protect myself emotionally?
  2. Does this person like me, and can I trust them?
  3. How am I a part of this group?
  4. What do I need to learn or acquire to be successful in this moment?
  5. How can I work with others to create something? 

2: Identify Your Blind Spots 

As a leader, you must be aware of and work to resolve your conversational blind spots, writes Glaser. These blind spots can negatively affect how you interact with others.

Blind Spot 1: We tend to believe others feel and think the same way we do. When others disagree with us, we try to convince them we’re right, which makes them feel bullied or strong-armed.

Blind Spot 2: We aren’t aware that fear and distrust affect how we react to situations, and that this makes it hard for others to trust us. 

Blind Spot 3: We don’t realize that our memories of a conversation are subjective. If we act only based on this subjective reading of a situation, the other person feels they can’t trust us to be open-minded and accepting. 

Blind Spot 4: The listener may misinterpret what the speaker said, so both parties must check in at the conclusion of an interaction to ensure they’re on the same page. 

3: Control the Context of a Conversation to Maximize Trust

  • To encourage trust from the start of a conversation, control the context in which you hold it, says Glaser. 
  • She refers to this as priming the other person—and yourself—to be trusting and open. You can prime both individuals and groups for more trusting conversations.

4: Ask Open-Ended Questions 

  • To establish trust, ask open-ended questions that make the responder feel valued and willing to speak openly. Such questions encourage the other person to think about their response and to feel they can freely share their thoughts with you. 
  • Asking open-ended questions is an essential part of becoming a better coach. 

5: Explore the Other Person’s Experience to Better Empathize With and Trust Them 

  • In any conversation, you can bolster trust by engaging with and understanding the other person’s thoughts and feelings more fully. This is called “double-clicking” and lets you work together more effectively. 

6: How to Use Conversational Intelligence to Reestablish Trust 

  • When you find yourself or the other person becoming distrustful during a conversation, pausing the discussion can help you reestablish trust. You can also practice deep breathing during a pause to help you relax. 
  • Forge a connection with the other party by letting them know you appreciate their qualities. This lets the other person know they can trust you. 
  • Define success together: This creates trust because you know you’re all moving toward a common goal. If you can’t get on the same page with the other person, you might want to consider switching teams. 

Once you’ve performed the above steps, reflect on your assumptions and how you can close the gap between assumptions and reality. 

7: Build Trust to Facilitate Change 

  • You can become more conversationally intelligent in the face of change by practising three conversational rituals, contends Glaser. These rituals include:

– Welcoming push-back creating opportunities to discuss change

– Telling a story about the change.