Good dialogue is a powerful skill
Dialogue is one of our most powerful skills. How we talk to each other makes the difference between building good strong relationships built on trust and respect, and not.
What is great dialogue?
Great dialogue is the process by which two or more people discuss something and effectively move forward in some way. It could be a decision – or perhaps just improving knowledge or understanding. At its best, good dialogue has all the relevant information people need to participate in a valuable way. Essentially, the art of thinking together, collaboratively, creates the ‘right’ outcome.
Why is it important?
People only ever meet on a behavioural basis. What do we mean by that? Our experience of people is based on what they say and do. We read their body language and respond to their actions and it’s this that we base our relationships on. Considering that written and verbal dialogue makes up a huge percentage of our behaviour, it stands to reason that our competence in having effective dialogue has a big impact on our lives.
When people have great dialogue, they trust each other more. They get to the point quicker and make better quality decisions. Implementation is more effective because people are engaged – they understand the reasoning and their role within it. Great dialogue enables people to develop by driving performance and holding others to account against the clear expectations they have set. In simple terms it drives engagement, growth, speed and effectiveness which in turn delivers ROI.
How is it achieved?
Contrary to popular belief great dialogue cannot be achieved purely by saying the right thing. A challenging conversation must start with good intent and positive mindset, followed through with clear articulation of the problem to be resolved. What we are saying then, is that good dialogue starts inside. Your intent and your mindset drive your behaviour and your behaviour achieves a certain result.
If the intent of a performance conversation is to improve how someone works, then skirting around what you want them to do differently to avoid hurt feelings, will result in confusion and little change. If, however, our intent is to give the colleague the best opportunity to excel in role, we need to be clear about our expectations, where we expect them to focus, what their development needs are and how we’ll support them. Good dialogue will achieve all this.
Espoused Intent vs. Real Intent
Crucially, there is often a mismatch between what people say their intent is i.e. their espoused intent, and what it actually is i.e their real intent. For example, we often hear leaders say that “they only want the best for the company” however their behaviour suggests that what they actually want [their real intent] is what is best for themselves or their team. No matter how people behave, most of us can sense whether someone’s intent is good or bad and it is this that tends to dictate what we think and feel about them.
So, great dialogue is achieved through great intent, positive mindset and behaviour that reflects the outcome required. If you want to perfect your dialogue skills, start with intent and mindset and then move on to the behaviours.