Motive Matters for Productive Dialogue
Striving for True Dialogue
Having open and productive conversations is more important now than ever. We find ourselves with multiple high-stakes, high emotion situations in which opinions are utterly different. Knowing this may cause us to avoid those conversations at all cost, or not really say what we feel, believe and value. Although that removes the discomfort today, it can leave us disappointed (in ourselves and others), and keep us disconnected from others. It doesn’t open us up to learning, and prevents others from learning from us.
The goal is to have true dialogue. Each person fully putting their own meaning into the conversation. When each person understands and appreciates (not necessarily agrees with) the others’ view, that is when real dialogue can happen. Then in that dialogue can genuine learning, problem-solving and connection happen. Using the wisdom and framework of Crucial Conversations© can lead us to true dialogue.
The place to start is decide if you are having the right conversation. Do you need to discuss a single incident? A pattern of behavior? Or the fact that your relationship is being affected? Having the right conversation can save frustration and confusion in the future. For example, if you’re talking about not closing the copier lid with a lot of passion and ferocity—maybe it’s not about the copier lid. Perhaps there’s something deeper to discuss. When you look at which conversation you really need to have, you can prioritize and focus on the conversation that will make the most difference.
Get Your Motive Clear
Once you know what conversation to have, the next place to look is within yourself. Start with getting your motive clear. Only hold the conversation when you are sure your motive is toward a positive outcome—to learn, to understand, to come together with mutual purpose and mutual respect. You are not ready for the conversation if your motive is to be right, to look good, to save face, to punish, or to blame. If a healthy motive isn’t readily apparent, try looking to longer-term outcomes.
A great place to start figuring out your motive is with some questions:
- What do I really want?
- For myself?
- For the relationship?
- For the other person?
- How would I behave if I really wanted that?
Taking some time to figure that out can make a noticeable difference in how you approach another person, and a conversation. When you motive is to really understand how someone else sees a situation, to have an open conversation about a topic, or to maintain a collegial or friendly relationship, what you say will naturally lean towards creating dialogue.
Memorizing these simple questions can prepare you if you unexpectedly find yourself in a tough conversation. If that happens, take a deep breath, and in that pause, ask yourself those questions. When you’ve already thought about those things, it will be easier to reconnect with the answers in the moment. The more you take that step, you may find it has become a habit!
Visit the blog again soon to learn the next step to helping your approach conversations in a way that will increase the likelihood you achieve your motive of understanding, learning, and collegial connection.
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