Great communicators take an assertive role in every conversation they have. They navigate their conversations.
What is navigating a conversation? To understand, let’s first look at what it is not. It’s not passively letting the conversation take its natural direction. And it’s not forcing the conversation to take the direction of your choice.
Navigating means noticing what’s happening in a conversation and taking steps to keep it on course. It’s paying attention to the health of the conversation while you are participating in it.
This can be a difficult thing to do. Why? Well, let’s face it, our own emotions can make it hard to have the objectivity that leaders need. For example, we may want a specific outcome so badly that we aim for it blindly, oblivious to the resentment the other person might feel. Or we may experience negative feelings ourselves that make us want to end the conversation without resolving the issue.
To assertively navigate our own conversations toward an effective outcome, we need to take a leadership role from start to end.
At The Start
Get agreement from all participants on three things: what you’re talking about, why you’re talking about it, and what outcome you’re hoping to achieve from the conversation.
During The Conversation
Notice when the conversation turns counterproductive. Then help everyone to step out of the content for a while. Here are some examples:
“We only have 15 minutes left, and we’ve been on this point for quite a while. So how shall we continue? Shall we leave this point for now and move on to the next one? Or stay on this topic and find another time to cover the rest?”
“These stories are amazing and I can see lots of smiles. But to make sure we all get out of here by 5, could we agree to now just focus on finalising the schedule.”
“Look, we both have heated feelings around this topic. It’s easy to see how passionate we both are about it, which is great. So, can I suggest we take five and just cool down a bit.”
“Just looking around the table, I’m seeing some tired faces and quite a bit of yawning. Do we want to call an early lunch and come back at 1, or plough ahead?”
At The End
Recap the outcomes and value of the discussion. Make sure that everyone knows who will do what and by when.
Being thoroughly involved in a conversation while taking a leadership role and navigating is a vital skill for every one of us. To hone this skill, try taking a few minutes after your next conversation to reflect on how well you did. You’ll learn what to watch out for next time!
Article written by Marianna Pascal