Let's Start Talking ~ Conversations over Coffee

In doing some additional research to further prepare for an upcoming speaking engagement at PRO Forum 2019 called We Have to Talk ~ Conquering Our Fear of Difficult Conversations, I have recently discovered that what I originally hypothesized as a challenge surrounding conflict or difficult conversations may more accurately be described as systemic communication issue. 

Conversations introduce you to people, important people who could be your mentors, employers, employees, partners or friends. Without conversations as the foundation for those relationships, it would prove difficult to build a social circle or tribe, advancing your career or even starting a business or side hustle. Therefore, one could state that conversation is a necessary skill for almost everything in life. Yet conversational competency is becoming extinct.  Is it the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach, to learn and to refine?

With my career in recreation and in my business coaching leaders I have found that the single most common area of focus or topic for discussion and development is frequently associated with communication.  Whether in the form of internal dialogue or self-talk sabotaging success, finding one’s voice in a meeting or group setting, advocating for oneself at work, or acquiring the skills to successfully lead or manage other employees; it all starts with self-awareness and conversational competencies.

We as humans just want to be seen, heard and feel like we belong.  To achieve this, people need to engage in and be engaged by meaningful conversations to connect.  Communication can either lead to connection or disconnection.  Deficits in communication can lead to unhealthy or even toxic work environments, decreases in productivity, disengaged employees, higher levels of stress, and overall dysfunction of teams. 

A conversation is a balance between talking and listening.  A meaningful conversation is one that goes deeper than small talk and holds value for both the story teller and the listener.  A worthwhile conversation holds the listener accountable for being aware, present and diving in beyond simply hearing.  A conscious listener seeks first to understand and not simply respond.  A mindful conversation is one in which everyone is truly present for and fully immersed in. 

Have we honestly forgotten how to have meaningful conversations?  Do we feel we have nothing to learn or gain from others?

In my own personal development journey, I have recognized my own shortcomings when it comes to conversation and communication.  I have on occasion procrastinated having a challenging conversation because of the notion it was going to be uncomfortable or make me feel more vulnerable.  I must admit that with all my public speaking and leadership experience, I don’t particularly enjoy forced social interaction and I especially dislike ‘small talk’.  Yet, I do understand the value in networking, small talk and all forms of communication which I don’t relish.  So, I have a decision to make: choose the path of least resistance or continue to push myself outside my comfort zone, expand and engage the world.

In the recognition of my own personal tendencies, acknowledgement of my truths and my intentions, I have made a commitment to invest in learning, refining my connection and communication skills to then share my experiences with others.  As a leader and someone continually striving to be the best version of myself, I owe it to myself and others to live and lead with courage, compassion and curiosity which will require a high degree of vulnerability. 

So, here’s to embracing the uncomfortable, evolving everyday, finding and owning a voice and living your legacy. 

While this definitely not new, and it may not change the world ~ I hope it changes how you choose to interact with the people in your world today.