Conversations That Work

Conversations That Work

One style of communication is characterized by people taking turns expressing ideas and listening to what each other says. During the back and forth in this style of communication, people consider what they hear and they make new comments based on what the other person has said. They may wonder aloud if they agree or disagree with something they hear, or they may hear something they don’t understand or want to know more about. Sometimes, in this style of communication, one person might ask the other to say more about something, or to ask for an opinion of one’s comments. Different views are examined and probed and compared, and sometimes disagreement arises and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the threads of the conversation lead to different topics and sometimes those new topics are explored for a while. When the communication ends each person feels that some verbal and mental muscles have been exercised, and some ideas or thoughts have been let loose to fly around.
In other styles of communication people take turns making statements, and they pause now and then while the other person makes a statement. They then repeat their statement or repudiate the statement of the other. This continues until one or the other thinks there has been a win, usually characterized by a snappy close.

The second style of communicating is common, unproductive, and distressing.

Language at Work tip: If this is the communication style in your workplace and you would like to change it, try these:

– Use listening skills to guide the other person to a more open exchange;

– Change your tone from combat to collegial;

– Slow the pace of the exchanges;

– Ask questions;

– Figure out what is being expressed and speak to that.

For more information on conversations and communications, see Deborah Tannen’s work:



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