“If you are getting what you want in most areas of your life, and the people around you are supporting your goals, you are probably using all four types of conversation skillfully. If not, it may be time to update your patterns of talk. Too often, when we fail to get what we want, we blame other factors such as authority, personality, or motives.” – Jeffrey and Laurie Ford, The Four Conversations.
Do you get what you want when you talk to other people? Are you satisfied with the progress of your work or current endeavor? Do people understand you when you talk to them? Are you ever confused about whether or not you’ve done everything that’s been asked of you?
Communication is the art of talking to others about what you do and why you do it. Effective communication achieves objectives – such as getting things done, furthering an project, or as a social engagement tool. In a world of information overload, we need ways to stop the insanity and deal with all of the messages coming at us.
Simple strategies for improving your communication and conversation habits can change how effective your practices are in the workplace.
In The Four Conversations, by Jeffrey and Laurie Ford, the authors talk about the importance of conversations – and the different types of communication we use in our daily lives – in both work and at home.
The authors outline the four styles of conversations that occur in successful workplace communication:
Initiative conversations propose something new; something different; they create a future vision. You’re selling an idea or attracting people towards a new project with an announcement. You want people to like it – not shy away from it or reject your idea.
Understanding conversations are used to explain ideas – when you want others to see the world as you see it; when you need to teach people and explain what your thinking is; when you’re training new people on existing systems.
Performance conversations are about specific actions and specific requests.
Closure conversations complete a communication and project chain with a thank you, a summary, a status, or a note that says the job is complete.
These conversations are positive or helpful. There are also bad conversations, too. Conversations that complain without proffering a solution, blaming, and gossip are unproductive conversations: they don’t solve a problem, achieve an objective, or make anyone any happier.
We need to use all four types of conversations to be our most effective. Some of these conversations are difficult; others we are not yet adept at using (do you ever have trouble pinning down a date or a time frame? You have trouble with Performance Conversations). Are you known for being an innovator and a leader? If no one seems to follow up on your ideas, perhaps your Initiative Conversations need work.
Clear and focused communication starts with good conversations. We need to know how to start, create, continue, and complete projects. This all starts with talking to other people about what we want to do, what we need to know, and how to get it done.
Sarah Kathleen Peck is the founder of Landscape Urbanism (dot) com and writes a blog about design, business, psychology and strategy at www.itstartswith.com. Her work overlaps in the space between architecture, design, technology and business – during the day she works as a Communications Specialist for an international landscape architecture firm, SWA Group, in Sausalito CA.