How to not screw up a conversation

Inspiration   •   3rd January 2018

I’ve come to believe that EVERYTHING that happens in organizations comes down to one thing–conversations. Effective conversations. Connecting conversations. Powerful conversations. Honoring conversations.

So how does one go about achieving “success” in conversations?

Simple. Honor the brain.

What does that mean?

Follow a few simple guidelines that will allow the other person’s brain to enter into a “toward state.”

Toward what?

Toward YOU.

Simple Guideline 1: Minimize Threat

If you’ve read even a few of my posts, you’ve read about the brain’s primary organizing principle–move away from danger, move toward (there’s that word again) reward. This principle is staggeringly powerful. It drives how we operate in our world.

How do we do minimize threat in conversations?

Simple Guideline 2: Create S.A.F.E.T.Y.

S.A.F.E.T.Y.™ is a model created by the Academy of Brain-Based Leadership that represents five brain-focused “social needs” (social in that they relate to our social and emotional environment, as opposed to our body’s physical needs for food, shelter, and water). By meeting another person’s brain’s social needs before and during (heck, even after) a conversation, we tend to minimize the threats and increase the rewards associated with that conversation. The “toward state” process begins!

Great, what else?

Simple Guideline 3: Honor the PFC (Prefrontal Cortex)

You can think of the PFC as your “executive brain.” It carries out the work of holding (short-term) and processing information, setting goals, creating plans, making decisions, solving problems (in a linear fashion). This part of the brain is expensive to operate (think of it as a gas-guzzling muscle car) and has other surprising limitations. So do what you can to honor the PFC’s limitations and simplify the conversation (meaning, break a complex issue into its component parts, focus on one thing at a time, or take frequent breaks) and the other person’s brain will be happier.

OK, this is making sense. What else?

Simple Guideline 4: Activate the Visual

Did you know, “In the brain itself, neurons devoted to visual processing number in the hundreds of millions and take up about 30 percent of the cortex, as compared with 8 percent for touch and just 3 percent for hearing. Each of the two optic nerves, which carry signals from the retina to the brain, consists of a million fibers; each auditory nerve carries a mere 30,000.” (source: Simply put, use visual language. Leverage analogies. Share metaphors. If you’re going to tell a story, make it simple and paint a picture with your words. You’ll leverage FAR more of the brain’s processing power than if you rely on “dead” language alone.

You can do that, right? And one more thing.

Simple Guideline 5: Use More Questions

Questions are a great way to engage the other person’s brain. It helps turn on the PFC (which can help decrease limbic “fight or flight” activity). It helps meet the social needs of the other person. It lightens your load (you don’t have to know everything). It also requires you delay your own gratification and it may not feel as good as telling people what to do.

Then again, this is about effective conversations. Not about stroking your own ego.

So there you go, five simple guidelines for creating a toward state and achieving more successful and effective conversations.

Try these out and let me know how your experiment goes!

By | 2018-01-08T05:16:10+00:00 January 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|