We aren’t talking about belly buttons or a burger joint; this is about conversation. Research from Stanford University has shown that 9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark.
To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of culture, on the quality of relationships, on the quality of conversation.Judith Glaser, Conversational Intelligence
One of the ways to increase the quality of your conversation is to bring people into the conversation. You always have a choice to make of whether you will include or exclude people in your conversations. Are they in or out?
Inclusive Conversation occurs when differences in perspectives are used as opportunities for learning instead of interpreted as threats, positions to be toppled or points of view to ignore.
Another way to think about the choice is to consider whether you want to be right or be in relationship. Many of us are addicted to being right and will defend our position at any cost. You can win the conversation battle and ultimately lose the relationship “war.”
- Be Curious. Find the why behind the words by asking questions. In today’s world there is a pretty good chance that what you hear is not what the other person means. Don’t make assumptions, take the time to understand. For example, when I say “feedback” I mean that I want your point of view. According to Marcus Buckingham’s latest book, when the newest generation in the workplace says “feedback”, it means something different. He says, “They love attention. That’s totally different. They’re not looking for constructive, candid or radically candid feedback. My daughter has 1.4 million Instagram followers, and what Lilia wants is an audience. She’s not looking for feedback. She’s looking for interaction.“
- Establish Common Ground – get above the trees of disagreement and find a place of looking at the forest where you have a shared perspective. Engage with differences as building blocks instead of walls. We heard a story about two people having a conversation about climate change. They vehemently disagreed about its existence. Then one person became curious and asked questions. He found out that there was common ground in the dislike of fear mongering. The person who disagreed with the existence of climate change explained that he experienced people creating awareness through fear and didn’t like the approach. The person who did believe in climate change was able to appreciate that perspective and found common ground on which to build an inclusive conversation. They didn’t convince each other of their position but they were inclusive in the conversation and created a common place of understanding to build upon.
- Be Patient – being inclusive takes time; excluding and assuming is expedient. It’s hard work to have productive conversations when participants have difference perspectives. It’s easy to say that you value different points of view, but how are you giving space for others to raise their ideas? How often do you slow down in order to get curious and establish common ground?
- Make it Safe. Inclusive conversations are judgement-free zones. This doesn’t mean that you are leaving your brain behind. This means that you are willing to be open and explore another point of view. Great leaders can maintain the tension between their perspective and an opposing point of view. Judgment- free isn’t about agreement or convincing others, it involves curiosity and deep listening.
Inclusion is a choice. It’s difficult and uncomfortable. Are you willing?