Last week, I wrote about a dialogue disaster, and this week I want to talk more about dialogue because it is such an important way to communicate with others.
On a teleseminar a few months back, I shared my personal definition of dialogue: “Dialogue is a meeting of minds, in the spirit of relationship and the creation of synergy — through the open exchange of ideas in the context of relationship.”
With that definition it seems there might be some connections between romance and dialogue — so let me take these two ideas, mash them together and talk about the connections I see.
Romance is emotional in nature, and the behaviors that connect to that wonderful emotional response include:
Focus-shifting. When you’re feeling and acting romantic, your actions are all about the other person, aren’t they?
Intense listening. Do you remember being across the table with someone on a date when you were really interested in them? Were you intently, intentionally and intensely listening? You bet you were.
Overlooking. When we are in romance mode, we overlook issues, tendencies and personality quirks. When we overlook these things (or at least downplay them) it helps our relationship.
Re-prioritizing. Romance leads to all sorts of re-prioritization, often closely linked with the shift of focus from us to the other person.
Respecting. We don’t have to worry about showing people respect in these situations; our respect for them, their wishes and their ideas goes without saying.
Being present. Perhaps the way to summarize all of these behaviors is that when you are in a romantic situation, you are truly present. You aren’t multi-tasking or thinking about the future. You are there with your partner in the moment.
Focusing on environment. When you are feeling romantic, you think about the environment (a lot). You want the right table, the right music and the right menu. You want the right clothing, the right flowers and well — you want everything right. And you take the time to insure that environment is created.
Read that list again, thinking about dialogue. While we have to change the context, are all of those behaviors and factors valuable to creating better dialogue?
There is no doubt about it! Let’s re-look at these behaviors and factors from the perspective of improving dialogue amongst our team.
Emotion. Romance is clearly related to emotion, but dialogue is supported by emotions as well. When you are emotionally engaged, you will move into dialogue more effectively. It isn’t just a mechanical communication tool — there is an element of emotion that is critical to its effectiveness. If you want to create more dialogue — check your emotions. Are you engaged enough to be successful in creating dialogue?
Other focus. You can’t have dialogue if it is all about your agenda. You need to see other perspectives, and value them, regardless of whether you agree with them. Are you willing to let go of yourself and your ideas enough to truly enter into dialogue?
Real listening. As I typed the above sentences about intense listening, I wrote something that is a pretty good goal for us as listeners: intently, intentionally and intensely. If you are doing those three things, you are listening well — and in a good position to encourage and create dialogue. How often are you doing any (let alone all) of the three i’s listed?
Overlooking. In discussions, we don’t let go of things. We nitpick, we look for weakness, we debate. In dialogue we move past the little things that bother us about the other person and focus on their message, points, opinion and feelings. Dialogue is about the message, the ideas and the decisions, not the individual players. Are you able to overlook littler issues to get to the bigger message/result?
Priority. The priority in a dialogue isn’t to win. It is to understand and create great solutions and decisions. When you keep that as your goal, you re-prioritize many of your words and actions. If you want to create dialogue, consider your priorities (and the priorities of your team). Are they in the right place to support dialogue?
Respect. Without respect for others and their ideas, dialogue can’t occur. How can you create more respect amongst your team?
Presence. To create dialogue you must be present — right here, right now. No phone, no email, no worries about anything but right now. Finding ways to create this is an important part of creating dialogue. And it starts with you. How can you be more personally present?
Environment. Dialogue will be supported by the right environment, and part of your job is to create that environment. That may include seating, location, proximity and a wide range of other logistical factors. Are you thinking about them?
I’ve made some connections for you and hopefully given you a clearer picture of what it takes to create real dialogue. More importantly, in the second half of this blog post, I have asked you some rather pointed questions.
I encourage you to think about and answer those questions if you are serious about being a more effective communicator and leader.