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Quality Linked To Conversation

by Brady Wilson

What's the difference between dialogue on the one hand and discussion or debate on the other? Understanding the distinction could be the key to sustaining a dynamic, progressive organization that gets results.

"The quality of an organization is directly linked to the quality of conversations of the people in that organization."

I heard this statement five years ago. I don't know the source, but it sure rang true for me. Little did I know how much this seemingly innocuous statement would shape my destiny in the years to come.

10 years ago I devoted my life to helping organizations across North America become effective at the skill of listening. It became apparent that listening was not the deal—it was only a mechanism that produced understanding.

For the next several years I helped people achieve a specific quality of understanding—an understanding that was big picture, root cause, mutual and timely. In my quest to help people achieve understanding I became acquainted with the world of dialogue.

I delved into the work of Peter Senge, William Isaacs, David Bohm and Margaret Wheatley. I traveled to the Global Dialogue Institute to study their approach. I sat under the mentorship of Dr. William Stockton of Mobius, an expert in the field of dialogue.

Through all of these people, I discovered a fundamental truth: dialogue is a way of doing conversation that produces reality.

It is a radically different form of conversation. I learned that very few organizations or individuals really know how to do it.

In North America, we are good at debate and discussion. Unfortunately, neither of these forms of conversation produce much reality. Why? Because debate literally means "to beat down" one's opponent. Discussion literally means "to shake apart".

Dialogue, on the other hand, literally means reality flowing through . When we learn how to dialogue with one another, we begin to understand and experience each others' reality. It was in the midst of learning about dialogue that the quality conversations quote came zinging back into my life.

Things started to make sense. If dialogue—or quality conversations—produced reality, I could see how that would determine the quality of an organization. I knew that cutting through perception, assumptions and conventional wisdom and getting to the real deal is the only way you can attain and sustain maximized results.

When you get reality on the table, it becomes apparent what choices move results forward.

To many, the word dialogue sounds somewhat airy, so I started talking to people about learning how to have "get it" conversations. That was something people seemed to be able to wrap their arms around.

What is a Get It!™ Conversation?

Certain people really "get it" when you have a conversation with them. You feel like they really get you at the gut level, not just at the head level. You walk away from a conversation with them feeling deeply understood and valued.

Get It!™ people have acquired a blend of 2 heart-sets: directness and pull.

Directness is the motivation to candidly assert your reality, while pull is the motivation to aggressively seek out, understand and be open to another's reality.

Interestingly, people seem to be divided into 2 groups. The first group leans toward directness. They are incredibly frank, they shoot from the hip and speak their truth but they have a very difficult time inquiring into others' viewpoints.

The second group leans toward pull. They want to understand others, be empathetic, open and imprint-able by others' viewpoints—but please, don't ask them to speak their mind.

People who get it have acquired a blend of these 2 heart-sets and have added to them 6 powerful skill-sets.

People who have Get It!™ Conversations:

1) Step into your world. They experience your reality by seeing and feeling things the way you do.

2) Draw out your best stuff. They unlock your ability to offer them your richest inner resources.

3) Pull out assumptions. They draw out their own assumptions and others' in a way that helps avoid needless misunderstandings.

4) Use language that lives. They use the timing, tone, venue, stories, analogies, illustrations and word pictures that enable you to Get It!™ quickly.

5) Speak their truth productively. They've learned how to have direct, face-to-face conversations. They productively confront in ways that create mutual understanding and commitment.

6) Find out what you both want. They discover the intersection between what's important to you and what's important to them. They find out what it is you both want—the key that unlocks an issue.

People who have learned Get It!™ conversations produce a gut level understanding of reality—the reality of others' needs, goals, motivators and concerns.

This understanding of reality creates another important commodity—trust. Bill Bachrach says, "People don't trust you because they understand you—they trust you because you understand them." (Values Based Selling).

When trust is created people begin to care. Are you a leader who wants your employees to care about your customers, quality, productivity and the bottom-line of your business?

In organizations large and small across North America, I have repeatedly witnessed that the maxim is true—to be a quality organization, people need to learn how to have Get It!™ conversations.

It's funny how a statement, read casually from a book or magazine can lodge inside you and goad you to embark on a journey that shapes the rest of your life.

Copyright © 2005 by Brady Wilson

Brady Wilson is co-founder of Juice Inc., a strategic communications training company that helps leaders create a culture where it's easier to get results and it feels good to work.


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