07 | Mediating Conversations
“Every uttered word makes and impression and causes a reaction. Leaders who understand and respect the power of words produce far reaching benefit with minimal stress and time” Mike Connolly
In part, because individual judgement is not accurate enough or consistent enough, cognitive diversity is essential to good decision making”. James Suroweiki
There is no job that can be achieved without a conversation at some time, yet the art and science of conversation is rarely considered, nor are we taught that there are different styles and skills of conversational practice that can build or destroy relationships.
In workplaces, most collaborative achievements are plagued by flawed human interactions. Moments of defensiveness, forceful and even aggressive behaviours disturb the equilibrium of collective efforts and people are often left stressed and resentful. The result is disengagement or even worse, disbandment. No matter how sophisticated we think we are, our brains are still primitive in their responses to challenge and disagreement and although we also have the capacity to consider and change the ways we relate in order to get a better outcome, this is seldom practiced.
Furthermore, although we see communication blunders every week in the media and watch the effects of fake news and the war of words in political circles, executives and leaders still trivialise the power of conversation. They dismiss it as a soft skill instead of realising that every undertaking (whether moral or not) is successful because someone has considered what, how and who they converse with. When conversation is constructive and ethical, a common bond and purpose is established and there is respect for all other’s aspirations, concerns and circumstances, no matter how diverse these are. This is the basis of a mediating conversation.
Groups and people also make decisions and in today’s uncertainty and complexity the best decisions are made by groups in which there is social and cognitive diversity and inclusion. With cognitive and social diversity comes differing and often conflicting perspectives. Mediating conversations provides the process by which to negotiate these and arrive at considered and wise decisions.
The Principles of Mediating Conversations
- The foundation of all effective conversations is shared purpose and vision
- The mindset of participants shapes the conversational practices in the room
- Participants should speak FOR as much as AGAINST
- Resistance in the room invites inquiry,
- Equal airtime is the basis of groups that work well together
- No perspective is all right or all wrong
- All perspectives need to be heard, considered and responded to,
- Serial monologues and ‘opinion dumping’ reduce engagement and participation,
- Effective conversations have a balance between inquiry and advocacy
- Decisions are based on consensus not compliance.
What are they?
One-to-one sessions assist people listen, understand and respect each other’s perspectives and leads to mutually agreed actions that enable the shared purpose to be realised.
Group sessions are conducted in situ to assist groups to engage in perspective taking, consideration of their impact on others, and honest and respectful attention to each other’s concerns and contexts.
Who should attend?
- When individuals and groups are not working well together
- When there are difficult situations and relationships that people want to resolve informally,
- When there is a need to develop the skills of and make, complex decisions,
- Experience of ethical dilemmas in the workplace,
- When people want to learn the art and science of good conversations