Life Lessons for Leaders – Communication: The Art of Dialogue
Most of us use language as a means of imparting information or to explain something. My husband and I have been married for almost 40 years. Because we have kept schedules at opposite ends of the clock, he working nights and me days, I often tell people we have been married as long as we have because we don’t have to communicate a lot, nor have we spent more than twelve hours a week with each other. In the time we spend together, we quickly pass information back and forth that we think the other needs to know to keep our household going, and to share what our families are doing. As Karl nears retirement, I have realized that it will be vital that we relearn the art of dialogue, speaking of things that are meaningful to both of us. Too often conversations are simply monologues disguised as dialogue. For instance, how my husband talks about retirement vs. the way I see it. Sometimes, we are each talking about our dreams without listening carefully to the other. This leads to definite misunderstandings, and often unhappiness on our parts.
Let’s flip this over into the leadership realm (even though we can learn a lot from the personal side of things). Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, talks about several types of dialogue:
- Technical dialogue – communication in which we give information, requiring no feeling, and it is received and acted upon. How much of your conversation with the people you work with consists of instruction or reporting, with very little human interchange?
- Monologue disguised as dialogue – one person speaks to the total indifference of the other.
- True dialogue – the speaker has the other person’s individuality and special needs in mind
Great leaders strive for true dialogue where the major goal is the wellbeing of their co-workers, the enrichment of what gives meaning to their work, and continued nourishment and ongoing regard for their potential. It is only when we care enough about the people we work with to see them for who they are, can we hope to succeed as agents for positive change.
How do we get to “I care about you back” without anxiety or fear?
- Be with your co-worker, prepared to be no where else. Close down your e-mail. Put your phone on call-forward, let others know you are not to be disturbed, and above all, don’t cancel the meeting.
- Muster your courage, and be prepared to really hear their response to your conversation and questions, and respond in turn.
- Look them in the eyes. Otherwise, they may feel invisible. Devalued. Open your vision so that the entirety of the person comes to you; don’t bore a hole in them.
- Listen. For what is underneath and around the words being said. Listen for what isn’t being said. Listen for intent.
- If it gets really quiet after you have asked a question, sit in silence and let insight be known.
- Ask about feelings. If you fail to ask, nothing changes.
- Be clear when you feel the need to add something to the conversation. However, less talk on your part is more.
- If you run out of time, schedule another time to continue your conversation.
Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.