If talk is cheap, let conversation be priceless!

by on 24 November 2014 in Business


Guest post by Sue Tsigaros, She Business Group Mentor and Founder of Iris Group Coaching

They say ‘Talk is Cheap’. Promises can easily be made and just as easily broken. But what happens when there is really something at stake?

Sadly it’s often easier to postpone, avoid or deflect a conversation that might be challenging, than to cross the line of faith and courage and say what needs to be said. Precious moments can slip past us into obscurity and all too often these opportunities are overshadowed by the need to save face, save time or save a few dollars.

Here are 6 key tips for the next time you find yourself in that moment when something important – that you truly value – is at stake:

      1. Get clear about your intention
        • Why do YOU care? You need to acknowledge your personal investment in the outcome – as well as your feelings about the issue at stake – and decide firstly whether the change you want to create, through having this conversation, is healthy for your business as a whole. Do you feel a strong commitment to enabling this outcome, no matter what? Can you articulate it?
      2. Check in with yourself
        • Accept that you may be feeling trepidation and you may even have negative feelings toward the other person (most likely because you have already been tolerating this for too long!).
        • Remember your commitment to, and passion about, the ultimate outcome are stronger than the fear you may feel about having the conversation.
      3. Prepare to speak plainly
        • Be specific about the issue. You must be able to name the behaviour or pattern of events that needs to change, in a way that is easily verifiable.
        • Explain briefly and clearly why this conversation matters – to you, to the team and to the business.
        • What is the impact of nothing changing? Again be specific about what the future will look like if change is not made.
        • Acknowledge your own feelings about the issue, using sentences like ‘this makes me feel’, or ‘I feel’ – NOT “you make me feel”.
      4. Set the context for success
        • Is it best to have this conversation with one person alone or with a group? Decide who needs to hear this message and what will be the benefit.
        • Be willing to own up to your own contribution to the problem. Did you set expectations clearly in the first place? Have your expectations changed and you forgot to let people know? Have you been tolerating situations and behaviours, avoiding confrontation and allowing people to assume that ‘this is how we do things around here’?
      5. Express your desire to work towards a solution, as well as the benefits of change and the consequences of not changing
      6. Most importantly, show you are open to hearing from the other person. Listen well, and seek clarification as needed. Are you worthy of their trust in going into this new territory with you?

Post Conversation: Reflect and Learn

      • Sometimes the act of creating context in this way will come as a relief and produce a genuine sharing of frustration, issues, thoughts and innovative ideas that you may not have been fully aware of up till now. From this a solution can be developed.
      • You may also hear excuses, blame and denial. This calls for courage on your part in holding clear boundaries about the correct use of language.
      • You may also need to challenge assumptions that create perceived obstacles.
      • As you develop your dialogue and negotiation skills, presence and spontaneity, this step becomes richer and more productive.

Check for Commitment

      • Your conclusion should be clear – in writing – and available to all parties. Work towards specific actions, outcomes and timeframes as well as clear personal accountabilities.

As you begin to have these high-value conversations, you’ll create a ripple effect on those around you, and ultimately contribute significantly to the responsiveness, accountability and productivity of your organisation’s culture. Cheap or priceless? It’s up to you!

This material is adapted from Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations model as well as other sources.