Secrets For Making Your Conversations Connect

The quality of conversation determines the quality of a relationship. Much more than words, a conversation is engagement, interaction and the glue of relationships. And, when communication is authentic, it promotes connection and earns trust between people.

Brain research shows that 93 percent of communication is not words. Author and academic Judith E. Glaser explains that, “In terms of importance, people allocate 7 percent to words, 38 percent to tone of voice, and 55 percent to nonverbal behaviors.” Nonverbal communication will always trump the words.

Non-verbal

The primary purpose of communication is to convey meaning and understanding. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s wisdom, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” reminds us that within the context of a relationship, the quality of each conversation matters.

 

No single conversation defines an entire relationship. Therefore, each interaction is important — sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Does your communication invite connection and build trust? Are your conversations genuine?

Do you know that…

  • Transparent communication can withstand scrutiny.
  • Superficial and disingenuous messages lack credibility and fail to earn trust. We feel uncomfortable, anxious or suspicious when we can’t make sense of things or don’t know what we can count on.
  • “Politically correct” rhetoric may provoke anger precisely because we sense that a message is not authentic — it avoids saying what’s true or attempts to obscure an undesirable reality or what may be obviously biased.
  • Candid and dynamic conversations can co-create resolutions, stimulate collaboration, create connection, inspire curiosity, and identify options — all in service of advancing a process of getting things done.
  • Honest conversations help us to listen to, acknowledge and understand conflicting perspectives and to work our way through the sticky and prickly situations of life.
  • Thoughts, ideas, beliefs and values can be transformed through dialogue. A collaborative exchanging of ideas can create a shared meaning and reality.
  • The ability to engage authentically and be fully present with another person promotes trust, connection and respect.

9 Tips to Improve Your Conversations

  1. Check in with yourself before you begin speaking.
  2. Be sure that you are “present” with the other person.
  3. Identify your feelings about the person or topic.
  4. Think about the immediate and long-term outcomes that you desire. What meaning do you wish to convey?
  5. Speak only for yourself; do not assume that you can speak for others.
  6. Clear thinking is essential for effective communication. Be sure that you know what you mean. If you don’t know, no one else will either.
  7. Be mindful that your words match your feelings.
  8. Ensure that you are open and forthcoming and not withholding or defended.
  9. Be ready and willing to listen with 100 percent attention.
Esther C. Bleuel
MF, MFT, MDR
President and Founder
Esther is dedicated to empowering leaders and teams to improve the quality of their work and interpersonal relationships through the mastery of conversational skills. Contact Esther today for assistance with your tough conversations.

A Search For Common Ground – Part Two: Overcoming Resistance

A Search For Common Ground – Part One: Authentic Discourse

A Search For Common Ground – Part Three: Conversations That Work!

Are you with me or against me? In life, we’re all essentially in the same boat — as humans, as Americans. Are we willing and able to keep our boat afloat? What will it look like — balance, focus, leaning in, pulling together? Or, will we resist, struggle and capsize?

Why should we bother engaging with others who have views, beliefs, values and concerns in opposition to our own? Probably because my side/your side battles will prevent us from growing and thriving. All-or-nothing, black/white, right/wrong positions are extreme and most of life occurs in the gray zones. In fact, we need each other’s ideas and passion to resolve important issues, accomplish goals and effect change, especially in the realm of important social and political issues that impact us all.

So, how can we learn to overcome our resistance to listening to, and actually hearing, what others have to say? Here are a few suggestions:

Assess The Situation
We cannot solve problems or accomplish constructive change if we don’t understand the current situation. In order to do this, we need to obtain accurate information and to acknowledge that creative problem solving involves investigating multiple options.

Start by knowing that everyone thinks they are right, and everyone has their own reasons for their beliefs and behaviors. Telling someone that s/he is wrong and, that you are right is not helpful. Dismiss your self-righteous attitude, be humble for a moment, and seek first to understand the other person’s reasoning before you attack, judge or disagree.

Many politically active people in our country today believe that they are motivated by love and their opponents are motivated by hate. Imagine that your ideology is based on benevolence —you want to help people. Do you truly believe that the other side’s positions are intended to be malicious or destructive? This is common in world conflict — Palestinians and Israelis, Republicans and Democrats, for example.

Separate The Person From The Situation
One of the first rules for dealing with a difficult situation is to separate the person from their words and actions. A decent and intelligent person may hold ideas or beliefs with which we disagree. This does not make them evil or stupid. It means they have a different opinion. Name-calling, denigration and vilification of others is ignorant, rude and cruel. Our society cannot progress when this type of stereotyping, cynicism and judgment prevails and predominates.

Fear Rears Its Ugly Head
Uncertainty and volatility surrounding disagreement and conflict induces fear which causes our defensive behavior patterns to take over: fight (move against others), flight (move away, avoid) or freeze (shut down). This instinctive stimulus occurs so quickly it tends to preempt rational thinking and choice responses. And, when we are afraid, we distance ourselves from others, precluding engagement or cooperation.

What’s In It For Me?
Again, why bother to reach across the aisle, to have a difficult conversation? First, ask yourself, what’s in it for me — to understand, to gain information or insight, to participate in a solution, to show respect for another perspective, to give respect to another person, to “have a vote?” Nobody has all the answers, and collaboration and partnership can unleash creativity and possibilities.

I have several close friends who hold very divergent views from mine on important social and political issues. So, I ask myself, “Why does this smart person seem to believe such a dumb or ridiculous thing?” Since I hold each of them in high regard, I want to understand their perspectives and reasoning. This type of discourse promotes and solidifies respect, trust and lasting relationships.

What about you? I encourage you to be ready, willing and able to overcome your resistance, one conversation or one interaction at a time.

A Search for Common Ground
Part Three: Constructive Conversations will provide specific steps for having conversations instead of adversarial debates by acknowledging and understanding differences in order to discover common ground.

Esther C. Bleuel
MF, MFT, MDR
President and Founder
Esther is dedicated to empowering leaders and teams to improve the quality of their work and interpersonal relationships through the mastery of conversational skills. Contact Esther today for assistance with your tough conversations.

A Search For Common Ground – Part One: Authentic Discourse

A Search For Common Ground – Part Two: Overcoming Resistance

A Search For Common Ground – Part Three: Conversations That Work!

Jacob and Phil wrestled with each other in friendly but intense disagreement about a range of issues: power, government, same-sex marriage, religion, media, morality, race and more. Each often felt misunderstood and couldn’t understand why.

“You’re Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You’re Still Wrong),” written by Phil Neisser and Jacob Hess, presents an engaging look at a conversation that launched a sustained dialogue between Jacob, a professor, and Phil, a nonprofit leader. [Read more…]

Esther C. Bleuel
MF, MFT, MDR
President and Founder
Esther is dedicated to empowering leaders and teams to improve the quality of their work and interpersonal relationships through the mastery of conversational skills. Contact Esther today for assistance with your tough conversations.

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

It’s been called the most wonderful time of the year — the holiday season. In the United States, it begins with Thanksgiving and extends through New Year’s Day.

Thanksgiving, a uniquely American tradition, celebrates the pilgrim’s gratitude for survival, emigration to this continent and appreciation for the help of the Indians who lived here.

Christmas has come to mean many different things, depending on your faith, religion, culture or country. It represents a time of celebration, tradition, gift giving, and gathering with family and friends, and of reflection. We turn our attention to the quality of our personal lives and away from more worldly things — we acknowledge gratitude for our blessings and connect with our desire for a more peaceful world.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 3.49.17 PM

People throughout the world, regardless of their religion, recognize this time of year by observing a variety of traditions, music and meals. Decorated Christmas trees, Santa Claus, elves and reindeer, presents, special meals, decorations (lights, candy canes, Poinsettias, snow & snowmen, candles, bells, wreaths) can be found throughout many countries.

For Christians, this season is about the birth of Jesus Christ, a baby who came to be with us and who changed the world in profound ways. The words of Handel’s beautiful Messiah celebrate his name: Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The holidays are generally a time of connecting, slowing down, and longing for peace in a world that is often fractured and tense. While it is true that much about this season has become commercialized, our desire for connection is in stark contrast to the frenzy of daily life. We long for a simpler existence and meaningful relationships with family and friends.

Each New Year inspires wishes and dreams for new beginnings. For the opportunity of fresh starts, for renewal. For me, the entire season inspires self-reflection, gratitude and appreciation for family and friends.

Whatever your personal beliefs, I wish you blessings, peace and grace during this season of celebration and reflection — what I believe truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth

Esther C. Bleuel
MF, MFT, MDR
President and Founder
Esther is dedicated to empowering leaders and teams to improve the quality of their work and interpersonal relationships through the mastery of conversational skills. Contact Esther today for assistance with your tough conversations.

Introversion Comes Out Of The Closet

Since author Susan Cain published her groundbreaking book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” there has been an abundance of information about introverts and introversion. What it means. How it is different from extroversion. And, lists of many famous people who are known to be introverted.

One thing that has emerged — something I had not really thought about before — is the long-standing negative connotation of the word “introvert.” I think about the great number of people who carried the “stigma” of that label and how important it is for all of us to shift that perception.

I decided to do a bit of research about what it means to be introverted and to dispel the all-too-frequent misunderstandings about introverts. By the way, some of the famous introverts include Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Adele, and Salvador Dali. Clearly achievement is not necessarily related to personality and/or temperament. So, here are a few thoughts.

  • One of the most common misconceptions is that shyness and introversion are the same thing. According to Cain, shyness is the fear of negative judgment and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments. Even an extrovert can be shy.
  • The classic distinction between introverts and extroverts is that introverts recharge their batteries by being alone, while extroverts recharge them in company — often, a lot of company. Many introverts have great social skills, but they still feel depleted by too much socializing.
  • Quiet, thoughtful and occasionally skeptical people, introverts can appear to not like people. However, most introverts can be quite social. They are often quietly content when alone and value calmness, serenity and enjoy being with people in smaller doses than do extroverts.
  • Introverts really do like to talk, but prefer to think before speaking and to listen closely to what is being said before contributing. If too many people are present, introverts will sometimes have a hard time entering the conversation and will decide to remain silent. This sometimes happens to a friend of mine at professional meetings. To be “heard” she will often write a report about her thoughts and suggestions after the meeting and distribute it to participants.
  • Quietness does not equal stupidity, just as loudness does not equal intelligence. If folks really pay attention, they would realize that introverts often have a great deal of useful knowledge and information to contribute.
  • Although introverts can work in groups, they often do their best work alone. While they will sometimes shut down in larger groups of people when they feel their voice isn’t being heard, introverts do excel in small group situations.
  • Introversion is not an affliction or something that can be “cured.” It is an inborn deeply embedded personality temperament, mostly determined by genetics.
  • Introverts are thought to be poor public speakers; however, while some may not like speaking in large group settings, many introverts are naturally gifted speakers. They also generally spend more time preparing for speeches and presentations rather than “flying by the seat of their pants.”
  • Although not necessarily comfortable in crowded spaces, introverts love experiencing new places, people, and things.
  • Most often introverts function on a much more even keel than extroverts and are able to acknowledge multiple perspectives objectively, even during times of stress.
  • Because they are good listeners and don’t complete with extroverts, introverts can be quiet but confident leaders.
  • And for those who might think that extroverts are happier than introverts, personality type does not pre-dispose you to be either happy or unhappy.

The good news is that now, introversion is “out of the closet.” Business leaders, educators, scientists, and others are, indeed, rethinking the workplace environment, the classroom, how we brainstorm, and how include quiet children, to name just a few shifts in the changing landscape. No matter how quiet or reserved introverts might be, their voices are now more understood, acknowledged and clear.

Esther C. Bleuel
MF, MFT, MDR
President and Founder
Esther is dedicated to empowering leaders and teams to improve the quality of their work and interpersonal relationships through the mastery of conversational skills. Contact Esther today for assistance with your tough conversations.