Imagine finding yourself lost in a scorching desert, the sun beating down on you, as you wander aimlessly for miles. In such a dire situation, the need for water would quickly become apparent, wouldn’t it?
While this scenario may seem straightforward, sometimes we become so detached from our actual needs and so accustomed to their absence that we forget about them. We can become disoriented and confused, unaware that we are still stuck in our personal desert.
Could this be happening in your relationships?
Has authentic connection and genuine relating become so scarce that you have forgotten to seek it out?
Is it possible that you have settled for mediocre levels of connection, unknowingly entranced by them?
As human beings, we all have fundamental needs like air, food, and water. However, we also have specific social needs.
We have a need to belong, to work together in teams for survival, and to feel recognized, respected, and understood.
Unfortunately, we are losing the art of authentic relating to each other.
Whether you are fortunate enough to be supported by a thriving community that nurtures your growth and success, or if you find yourself isolated and occasionally lonely, wandering through a relational desert, cultivating authentic relationships can significantly enhance the quality of both your work and your life.
The Importance of Conversation Quality
Whether you are building connections, fostering community, or shaping company culture, one of the best ways to assess their quality is by examining the conversations taking place within them.
Conversation quality serves as a proxy for the quality of connection, community, and culture. Conversations can be of low quality or high quality, depending on several factors.
Factors that contribute to low-quality conversations include:
In many business cultures, conversations move at such a rapid pace that individuals struggle to participate. Prioritizing content and problem-solving takes precedence over other considerations.
- Lack of presence
Conversations often revolve around the past or the future, rarely focusing on the present moment. Unknowns, assumptions, and projections infiltrate these discussions, perpetuating drama and hindering the quality of conversation.
- Excessive talking
Have you ever listened to someone speak for four minutes, repeating themselves three times? As they drone on, you find your mind drifting away, creating mental to-do lists or formulating your own response. This kind of one-sided conversation diminishes its impact and social effectiveness.
Methods to Enhance Effective Communication and Authentic Relating
One powerful way to incorporate authentic relating skills into the workplace is through the use of sentence stems. Sentence stems offer a simple yet effective approach that can take as little as a minute or as long as desired. They can be utilized in any time frame, connecting your team to themselves, the present moment, and each other. Regardless of your role, relationships, or community, sentence stems can be employed successfully.
Here are a few examples of how sentence stems can be applied:
- Pulse checks
A pulse check involves starting a sentence stem in response to an idea, concept, result, thought, or projection. During a meeting or check-in, encourage your team to share their thoughts in response to a specific item.
“When I look at what’s on the screen, I feel _______.”
“When I read that number, I feel ________.”
Team members can respond briefly or in great detail. The objective is to engage your team and elicit authentic and honest responses, devoid of shame, blame, or judgment.
- Checking for impact
As a leader, when you make an announcement or introduce new information that brings about change, it’s important not to simply move on without acknowledging the impact on your team. Instead, take a moment to check for impact within the group.
After making your announcement, invite those present to share how the news has affected them. You can conduct multiple rounds of sharing, such as reflecting on what was heard without commentary, followed by one-on-one discussions where individuals have the opportunity to express their immediate thoughts. By reconvening the team and exploring the impact of your announcement, you gain valuable insights into their perspectives.
Understanding the Four Types of Conversations
In the framework of authentic relating, there are four distinct types of conversations:
- Informational conversations
These are the most common conversations, where individuals share their opinions or relay information on a particular topic.
- Task-related conversations
Task-oriented conversations focus on actions and responsibilities. They involve statements like, “I need to do this” or “You need to do this.”
- Personal conversations
Personal conversations revolve around individual experiences and self-expression.
- Relational conversations
Relational conversations center on the present moment. They involve being aware of oneself, the other person, and the dynamic between them. Unlike other types of conversations, relational conversations prioritize what is happening right now, internally and externally.
Have you ever felt drained after a conversation where someone seemed to be talking at you instead of with you?
In a relational conversation, you feel alive. You are aware of yourself and your surroundings, as well as being connected to the other person’s inner world. This capacity to be fully present with oneself and another person simultaneously is a skill that can be developed and honed. Authentic relating skills and processes revolve around this connection. By incorporating them into team dynamics and company culture, you foster an awareness that promotes genuine relating.
When someone in our culture offers the casual greeting, “Hey, how are you?” it presents an opportunity for authentic relating. You can choose to share one genuine thing that is happening in the moment and engage in a richer, more three-dimensional conversation by asking the other person, with genuine curiosity, how they are doing. In that brief interaction, you create the potential for a deeper connection.
By leading by example and embodying these principles, you can escape the relational desert and encourage authentic relating within your team and company.
This article is related to a podcast interview with Simon Darcy – Listen here.