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4 reasons to avoid transformational conversations

Whenever I describe what I do to people - facilitating conversations using the neuroscience of conversation that get people talking like never before so we can harness the collective wisdom of the room and co-create positive change - I get a similar response, "that's so cool, we need more of that."

And of course, being completely bias, I agree.

And yet, because I also strive to see things from other perspectives, I'm here to tell you four reasons to avoid such transformational conversations.

But first, what exactly are transformational conversations? In the Conversational Intelligence framework, we call these Level III or Co-creating Conversations. These are generative conversations where new ideas and insights emerge, leading to valuable solutions that one would not have thought of on their own. Think of those times you had a problem you couldn't figure out how to solve until you talked with others about it.

Judith E. Glaser describes transformational conversations as, "engaging with others in high levels of openness, candor, curiosity and wonder, stimulating provocative questions that enable us to partner to elevate our thinking to new thoughts and ideas for innovation."

Now that we've established what transformational conversations are. Here are the four reasons to avoid them...

  1. You lose control There's a pervasive sense of uncertainty when engaging in transformational conversations. You can never predict how it's going to shape up. It's impossible to know ahead of time what people are going to say, which can be scary. Controlling communications is a common tactic used by some managers. This can look like not disclosing information and avoiding transparency. It also happens when meetings are strictly transactional exchanges of information. Another way managers control communication is by shutting down difficult conversations as quickly as possible. These are all classic conflict avoidance techniques that precipitate the illusion of control. Just because the conversations aren't being allowed doesn't mean the problem isn't lurking. Despite that, if complete control is what you need to feel good about your leadership, by all means don't invite transformational conversations.

  2. You have to take responsibility for how you show up The way you show up in a conversation impacts how it goes. If you're argumentative and defensive people are going to shutdown, which is not a good recipe for having a constructive conversation. What's more, there's a level of vulnerability required in transformational conversations, as in expressing when you don't know something or admitting when you make a mistake. And when there's an activating remark made, you can't just react without being held accountable for your actions. If hurt has been caused, you are responsible for repairing the discord. Being held accountable for one's actions and behaviors in this way has not been the norm in most organizations. Many professionals have had the privilege of showing up however they want without a care for everyone else walking on eggshells. And if you like to "just be yourself" without any concern for others, than you certainly don't want to invite a transformational conversation to happen. You'll be held accountable for your bark and your bite.

  3. It’s hard work Often times transformational conversations can be invigorating. Talking about new ideas and possibilities is inspiring. Following through afterward to turn those ideas into reality is hard work. It takes conscious effort, a willingness to try new things and fail, and an openness to receiving constructive feedback. All while staying in communication with other's involved. So if you want to keep things "easy," don't bother having transformational conversations. Who cares if the change you'd be co-creating is inspiring and would make the world a better place. Life's a heck of a lot easier when you avoid purposeful challenges anyway. Saying no to transformational conversation is another way to say no to hard work, when put that way it seems pretty obvious.

  4. You might uncover hidden trash Transformational conversations tend to surface messy stuff. Like finding a stash of dried up vegetables your kid was supposed to be eating for the last month behind their toy bin. You can't just ignore it once you uncover it. Not only do you have to scrape bits of crusty zucchini off the shelf, but now you're in for some difficult conversations. Who cares if, as a result, you learned your kid would prefer to eat raw carrots instead of cooked turnips. It's much easier forgo the treasure and avoid uncovering hidden trash by not even engaging in transformational conversations in the first place.

So there you have it, four solid, totally legitimate reasons to avoid transformational conversations...that is, if you want to be THAT person.

You know the kind of leader I'm talking about. The one that doesn't actually want to be there. The leader who's tired of having to say the same thing over and over again but refuses to listen to anyone else. The person who always needs to be right and blames other's when mistakes are made. If you want to be that person, by all means avoid transformational conversations.

Everyone else, step right up and get ready to rumble. You don't have to do it perfectly. And you needn't make all your interactions transformational. All you have to do is self-regulate, be curious, stay open to influence, extend trust, and speak from your heart. Try it the next time you're faced with a challenge you don't know how to solve on your own, and get ready to be pleasantly surprised.

Do you want to need to engage others in solving a challenging problem but don't know where to start? I'm here to support you in having transformational conversations that have a lasting positive impact. Reach out to me today to learn how.

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