Deep Conversations: Hope, Fire, Fun

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Close friends from my school time are few but really steadfast. When we meet or talk, it’s as if there was never any break between our conversations. There is warmth, empathy and a deep sense of connectedness. Often there are arguments, and heated ones at that. But there is no rancour and no hurt feeling.

This sense of deep and connected conversations has continued working with several leaders in my various roles over time. Some leaders are certainly better at conversation skills that others. And they have a certain something, which always creates positive outcomes and feelings.

My professional work provides the opportunity for me to work with leaders almost on a daily basis. One of the questions I have been grappling with in my professional work is — In the context of current times, leaders have a larger responsibility to support and help others, especially in dealing with the uncertainties and anxieties out there. And deep conversations are perhaps one of the potentially potent tools which all of us, including leaders have. How do leaders bring a deep quality into every single conversation? Or can you really? Should one even try?

Let’s first look at the current context, and then we’ll talk about why deep conversations are important.

The last few months have sharpened focus on a few things, coupled with a “hopefully never again” kind of a mood, even as the world starts opening up. Here are some of the things we are experiencing around us:

  • There is much talk of depression, mental health, how life has changed coupled with lots of anxiety.
  • There is almost too much information adding to the noise. Everything from the pandemic to health to exercise to government action to politics is being written and spoken about. Partially, it is the need in all of us to share our feelings and opinions.
  • Many people are going through the loss of a ‘known’ world around them, with no surety of when things will be back to normal. And how different will the new world look after the pandemic — no one really knows.
  • There are of course ‘experts’ on every subject out there, who have answers for everything, adding even more noise and confusion to the already stressed out world.
  • There is lots of talk about why leaders should have empathy and compassion (Was that not always important?)

I believe that Human beings are resilient and will surely come out of the current pandemic and economic downturn as well, but it will leave a scar.

History tells us that three things can help almost everyone — Hope, a sense of Purpose (fire) & Fun.

Hope

“Hope is the thing with feathers; That perches in the soul; And sings the tune without the words; And never stops at all.”― Emily Dickinson

Purpose (or a deep internal Fire)

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s search for Meaning

Fun

“You don’t stop having fun when you get old. You get old when you stop having fun.” Anonymous

All three, hope, fire (purpose) and fun have positive rub offs for each of us in many ways. Not only do they uplift us, they also allow us the see the world in a very different way, leading us to concrete forward moving action.

Each of us are who we are, pre-disposed to certain ways of thinking and feeling in our own unique ways. Each of us respond to situations differently. However, among other things, there is one which almost always generate positive feelings in all of us: A good heart to heart conversation.

Not all conversations are pleasant or necessarily nice, but even hard confrontative conversations can help resolve issues, leaving the parties with a sense of relief or having moved forward. Of course, crucial conversations, not handled properly, can also have several negative outcomes.

Conversation here is defined as a 1–1 interaction, ideally face to face, but could be virtual. Conversation here is also defined a deliberate tool for engaging with others around oneself in a professional context. (Although it could well apply to personal contexts)

Many leaders I have worked with excel in the art of the conversation. Post a conversation with these leaders, the mood changes, there is a different emotional uplift and an energy which speaks of willingness and action.

Here are some of my learnings about great conversations. Applicable to all of us, but especially for leaders, who can have strong and wide reaching impact on others.

  • A deep conversation is not always time consuming but certainly attention consuming. So plan a conversation only when you would not be distracted, and can be completely focused.
  • Even a short but meaningful conversation can have huge impact on both the parties, take every opportunity, rather than rely on a text or what’s app message.
  • Mails, text and WhatsApp messages are one sided and do not allow the same level of interaction as a conversation. The emotional content may be lost as well as there is a sequentiality to such messages whereas a conversation has both parties responding concurrently, even if only in expressions.

Conversations have to be deliberate act, so making time each week to have a few conversations and planning them in the calendar are essential.

  • Conversations require energy-emotional for certain. So if you are not feeling upto it, ensure that the next conversation helps you get some energy rather than drain it.
  • Similarly, if you as a leader need to have a conversation with someone, gauging there level of energy is important-depending on what kind of conversation you are planning to have.
  • Irrespective of the power status, position and context, the following can add significant value to each and every conversation between two people.
  1. Mutual respect
  2. Genuineness and openness (to listen, understand and to speak)
  3. Frankness (with the right skills, not necessarily being hurtful or undignified)
  4. Clarity and contextual understanding
  5. Timing of the conversation (appropriate)
  6. Individuality (bringing one’s uniqueness to the conversation)
  7. Willingness to be a bit vulnerable if required, and
  8. Humility

And finally — what emotion is a conversation generating or supporting in the other person — Hope, Purpose (Fire) or Fun? For leaders, every conversation must generate either hope, or speak to the other individual’s purpose or allow then to experience some fun.

Consistent practice in having conversations can improve our abilities along these lines. But it is not easy. These pointers to great conversations are cognitively well understood.

Each of us have to select conversation behaviours which suit our personality and style which then play out in the real world on a day to day basis.

What emotions is a conversation generating? Could it be planned and framed in a way that it links to either purpose, fun or hope.

Here are five blocks of preparation questions (almost like a checklist) before any conversation. These seem to help planning a good conversation.

  • What words or phases should I use in this context? And which ones I must avoid?
  • How much time should I plan for this conversation? Is this topic ok for a spontaneous conversation, or should I mention it but then block time for a proper discussion?
  • Am I in the right mood for this conversation? Is the other person?
  • Is this conversation necessary to have? How will it help? Should I wait for it to be initiated by the other party?
  • What is the goal of this conversation? What outcome am I looking for? (it could be a closure on a decision or just an information sharing conversation, or an influencing conversation for someone to take action)

If you love conversations, I’m sure you can add to this list above. If you don’t really enjoy conversations, give it an all out try and see the results.

Here’s to our next great conversation.

Published By

An author, CXO advisor & Coach. Bimal Rath is an entrepreneur focussed on taking Talent and Leadership Development solutions digital. His mission is to impact individuals live their potential towards future readiness.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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Bimal Rath. A loving heart is the truest Wisdom.

Executive Coach. Student of Leadership in all walks of life. Loves uncovering potential in people. A helper.