The Huffington Post

By By Judith E. Glaser & Joan Lawrence-Ross |
Published: October 23, 2013


Conversational Intelligence at Work

What Conversational Intelligence™ Habit Patterns are Driving You?
We've researched conversational patterns for 30 years and have discovered that without realizing it, 80-90 percent of the time people fall back into their old habits and patterns when having conversations with others.

There are 3 levels of conversation:
Level I: Transactional Conversations.... where we are asking and telling about what we already know to confirm it.
Level II: Positional Conversations... where we are advocating and inquiring about what we know and defending our beliefs about what we know.
Level III: Transformational Conversations... where we are sharing and discovering about what we don't know we know, or about what we don't know we don't know, or about what we want to know and discover

Conversational Intelligence is your ability to understand the impact of your conversations on others, and to intentionally set the level and quality of your conversations to enhance trust and to positively impact your relationships with others.

What Conversations Breed Success?

Good Intention, Bad Impact! While many of us start out with good intentions in a conversation, at the moment of contact we fall back into what we already know rather than step into a space where uncertainty lives robustly. Innovative conversations contain lots of uncertainty and often complexity.

More conversations at work -- even those about "innovation and creativity" can be described as "people telling each other" what their ideas are. This may sound, on the surface, to be a good thing, yet the pattern of "idea sharing" quickly turns into "idea selling" and conversations look more like persuasions than innovations.

The most successful companies and the most successful leaders harvest Conversational Intelligence spaces where people can feel comfortable "not knowing" the answers.

As you build your Innovative Intelligence at work, how are you engaging your employees and your clients? Not all engagement is equal.
What doesn't work: telling and directing.
What does work: asking deep/discovery questions; listening without judgment; cultivating open receptive mindsets; sharing information; and leading through inspired story telling.

Leaders at the top need to change the rules, and to act in concert with the rules for innovation. Leaders often send mixed messages -- knowingly or unknowingly -- that cause people to fear speaking up.
What doesn't work: going back on their word; discrediting ideas before they get vetted; not allowing thinking time; setting up roadblocks that ensure failure.
What does work: marrying intentions and impact - our real leadership behavior; monitoring the meta-messages we send to employees; not allowing the fear of retribution for speaking up to have a life of its own.

Checklist for Setting Innovation Norms:
• Make Level III: Transformational Conversations integral to your organization's business agenda.
• Create Conversationally Intelligent spaces for co-creation and innovation.
• Encourage, teach and reward Level III Conversations everywhere.
• Implement the right metrics and the right incentives to support the growth of Conversational Intelligence at work.
• Don't forget to enjoy the journey and benefits of Conversational Intelligence!

Checklist for Conversationally Intelligent Leaders:
Listen to connect not reject -- Rejection of new ideas closes down the brain and creates a state of fear that has a shelf life of over 26 hours. If people talk with others about the fear, they exacerbate it and sustain the fear state of mind. This limits any chance of creativity to emerge. Instead, listen to connect -- set a non-judgmental state of mind inside yourself and it will open doors to creativity in others.
Ask questions for which you have no answers -- Notice how often you ask questions to confirm or defend your point of view. Notice when you try to influence people toward what you want them to think. Instead, ask questions for which you don't have answers. Interrupt your own limiting habit pattern. Notice when you are being the smartest person on the block -- and be open to live in "not knowing" with others.
Prime the conversational space for trust -- Create conversationally intelligent spaces where people feel they can open up to you and "trust" you. To do this you need to trust them. Give them credit for their ability to think... to have new ideas... for being curious... for being great listeners. When you extend this trust to them, you prime their brains for being able to have those great ideas.

Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc., and Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of 7 books including her new best selling book - Conversational Intelligence; How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion)
To learn more, visit:; //This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_hplink">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Joan Lawrence-Ross is the Chief Learning Officer at AIG.


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