Are we having quality conversations at work?
Posted on January 15, 2015
LUIS: I met Professor Paul Brown at the Association for Coaching’s 5th International Conference in Budapest. Professor Brown is a renowned expert in applied neuroscience who lectured about mastering the brain in coaching. On his talk, he maintained that conversations are not only important but essential for a healthy brain development “The best kind of conversation involves every sense, every pathway of the right side of the brain, and every resource of the left side of the brain. It is suffused with delight, cements relationships at a deep level, and creates an overwhelming sense of the love of life”.
He also claimed that “because relations feed and develop the brain, relationship is at the heart of a healthy successful organisation”.
You and I have talked many times about the importance of conversations, we are great believers. So, David, what do you think about all this?
DAVE: In my environment I often see e-mail substituting conversation in the name of “efficiency.” The result seems to be lower levels of trust, less sense of connection, more fear about discussing and resolving difficult topics…
LUIS: That’s a good one, Dave. It must have been 1997 or thereabouts when I was a young executive interested in “this new thing called internet” and gave an informal lecture to some work colleagues about emails. I remembered explaining what they were and being really excited about the new mind blowing working possibilities that emails offered. All these years later we all know emails are very useful as well as very harmful. It is up to us what use we give them.
I don’t think our organisations can be very healthy if we channel most of our relationships via email. Emails are a limited resource, only a good operative solution. Conversations on the contrary are our best resource.
I completely subscribe what Daniel Goleman says on his post “Focus on how you connect”:
“When it comes to close personal connections, try to prioritize your communication methods. When possible, make the interaction face to face – especially if you need to discuss something important.
The social brain is in its natural habitat when we’re talking with someone face-to-face in real time. It’s picking up information that it wants in the moment. It’s reading prosody in voice, emotions, and nonverbal cues. And it’s doing it invisibly, doing it constantly, out of our awareness – and then telling us what to do next to keep things smooth and on track.”
DAVE: Referring to our “social brain” is interesting. I’d like to investigate that further.
LUIS: Goleman continues on to say “The problem with communicating too much via email or text is that they have no channels for the social brain to attend to. You have nothing for the orbital frontal cortex, which is dying to get this information to latch onto, to inhibit impulse and tell you, “no don’t do that, do this.” We’re essentially flying blind.
But if you have to communicate electronically, try to create more presence in your interactions. Take a few seconds to reflect on your intention and message. Is it clear? Will the tone be misinterpreted? That brief pause can save you a lot of back pedaling and hassle for an intentionally (or unintentionally) snarky comment”
DAVE: Not to mention the use of e-mail as a power tool. Rather than courageously facing the possibility of adverse reactions (or any reactions!) to the communication we’re sending, it’s easier to quietly send a written missive to an unseen partner and avoid potential face to face consequences. I have been guilty of this! And it was empowering for me to go and speak to the person directly after I sent that one-sided e-mail. The issue was difficult to work through and required me to take part in a few face to face meetings with uncomfortable emotions rumbling inside me.