Use it or lose it………….

Having just recently moved to a beautiful Wiltshire village from a sprawling urban suburb in the south east, I’ve heard ‘use it or lose it’ a lot. Quite rightly, they generally refer to local village shops and businesses. But it occurs to me that the same words are relevant to a critical aspect of all business life. That aspect is communication, and rather more specifically, conversation. In today’s world of screen based communications I wonder if actually talking to someone is losing its appeal? Are we afraid of direct communication with another person? I wonder too if we are losing that skill. I use the word ‘skill’ intentionally because I believe it is exactly that.

We have all became rather used to picking up and putting down a virtual conversation. Moving away from our laptop or putting down our tablet in order to quickly do something else in preference to finishing an email or some other piece of correspondence. Being told to switch off mobile phones in order to prevent other, unrelated, communications during meetings or social events is expected. Does this mean that we are fantastic multi taskers now, or simply unable to concentrate on one thing at a time, including having a conversation?

We were born as relational creatures and a good part of all relationships depends on the way in which we communicate with each other. In business settings this is as important as anywhere. Praising someone via twitter or dismissing someone via email is the stuff of Dilbert cartoons. Good old fashioned conversation is what can really make the difference in business. The conversation itself must follow some basic principles though in order for it to be most effective.

Firstly it is so important to make sure you are totally present when having a conversation. This means speaking and listening as if it is the most important conversation you will ever have with that person. You never know when it might be just that.

Secondly, take responsibility for what happens as a result of the words you have spoken. As a leader, you may not realise that the throw away comment you made last week actually had a devastating impact on the person who received it.

Principle number 3 is to allow silence in when necessary. Breathing and thinking space in a conversation can be powerful. It allows people to gain deeper insight into situations and become more resourceful.

I wonder if life would be improved if there were more face to face conversations; times when all people involved were totally present and without distraction. How do you feel when you believe you are being truly heard? What would happen if our conversations with our colleagues, team members and bosses were full of intention, robust and meaningful? What would be the impact at work if we made our conversations real and uncurbed? Would it make a difference? Rumi, a thirteenth century Sufi poet said “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there” How would it be if judgement was suspended from conversations at work and took place in that field?

Maybe one of the greatest gifts we can give another human being is our full attention and participation in a conversation.

Next time we’ll look at having that difficult conversation.
Till next time, Happy Talking!