9 out of 10 Conversations Miss the Mark

Does that statistic surprise you? It shocked us the first time we heard it, but this was the conclusion reached by a Stanford research project. Is it really possible that our conversations are that ineffective? We believe the best way of increasing your “conversational hit rate” is to have a meaningful conversation.

Meaningful conversations have a purpose and achieve their intended outcome. Here are three questions to consider as you evaluate your conversations:

  1. When is the last time you paused to consider your intent before you began a conversation? In our observations, people (especially leaders) are quick to speak and slow to listen. That leads to sloppy statements and random reasoning. Some people are verbal processors and if that is the stated outcome, then be as sloppy and random as necessary! However, leaders who begin with the end in mind by defining their intention and then carefully shaping their conversation are less likely to fall in the 90% of conversations that miss their mark.
  2. How often do you confirm that the impact of your conversation matches your intention? Once you get clear on the intention of the conversation, you are only half complete. To ensure that your intent was achieved you need to find out the impact, and the best way to do that is to ask questions. Asking “Do you understand” is a closed question that will not help you understand if impact and intention are aligned.  A more effective question is “What is your understanding of what I just shared?” Getting feedback closes the loop and will give you a chance to clear up misunderstandings before they multiply.
  3. How do you validate that you understand the other person versus climbing the ladder of assumptions? Diversity is a fantastic way to increase organizational success. However, it also increases the chance that the person you are speaking with has a different context. Whether it’s the definition of a word or the expectation that someone knows how to do something “the right way,” context colors conversation and can create incredible confusion. Consider the letter W. Depending on your vantage point, it could look like an M or a W. Before you start arguing about who is right, check your assumptions and make sure you know the perspective of the other person.

Hit the mark with your conversations by making them more meaningful and less random. Close the loop, check your assumptions and begin with the end in mind to improve your conversations.

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