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  • Writer's pictureAwatif Yahya

Partaking In Constructive Conversations

Work-from-home and hybrid work environments have affected our communication. Some have lost touch with holding conversations and debates in a constructive manner.

Human-to-human conversations have three components to them. The words that we use make up 7%; tonality and volume together make up 38% and the majority of our communication is with our bodies at 55%. Even when our bodies are not doing anything, or are stiff, they are contributing to the conversation. To put it artistically, the words would be the song, tonality is the music and our body language would be the dance.

The best way to lower the risk of unconstructive conversations is to plan for the conversation beforehand. Every conversation needs a framework guiding its flow. Preparing a script with a beginning, a main section and an end to a conversation could be very helpful. The script should not be rigid. It need not be followed word for word, but rather used as a guideline to gauge and drive the conversation. Having multiple scripts to address possible responses to different scenarios is a step further in guaranteeing a beneficial conversation.

Planning also involves selecting the right time and length for the conversation. Conversations should be scheduled with respective parties giving them an overview for the conversation and desired outcome from it. As much as possible, avoid catching people off-guard. Keep in mind external circumstances and events that might impact the conversation. For example, you would not want to hold a crucial conversation with a grieving individual; the time would not be right for them to be fully present.

After planning, comes executing a conversation. For a conversation to be constructive, all parties need to listen with the aim of understanding rather than responding. This would require listening with curiosity, possibilities and empathy. If any aspect of the conversation is unclear, ask for clarity. Repeat important information to ensure alignment. If assumptions were made prior to the conversation, use this time to validate those assumptions and disregard wrong information.

Most importantly, all parties must learn to manage emotions; theirs as well as emotions of others. Know your own triggers, and if possible, the emotional triggers of those you are conversing with. Pay attention to physical signs such as: stomach turning/growling, watery eyes, dry mouth, tense muscles, crossed arms, eye rolling, heavy breathing, hyperventilating, excessive sweating …. etc.

When emotions run high, naming the emotion can help dealing with it. Anger, fear, pain, anxiety are all emotions that require different tactics to bring them down. Take a break from emotionally charged conversations and resume when all parties are calm and open to participate equally.

Finally, create a safe environment by protecting yourself and others, especially those who are vulnerable. Ensure turn taking and equal time distribution for speaking. Pay attention to extroverted personalities making sure they do not hijack the conversation. Always find ways to encourage the quietest voice in the room to speak up.

In summary, these simple tips for framing, timing, listening, managing emotions and creating a safe environment set a foundation for conversations that beneficial to all parties involved. For further assistance in designing an effective communication strategy, please reach out to us. Meanwhile, we wish you all great conversations.

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