Whether it be with an employer, employee, spouse or friend, every person on this earth has had at least 1 unproductive conversation. 

Reflect on a significant unproductive conversation you’ve had and what made it unproductive. For most of us, that unproductive conversation looked like some combination of the below:

  • the parties were not clear about what they wanted out of the conversation
  • you felt like you couldn’t express what you wanted to say in fear of emotional and/or physical consequences 
  • you felt like the other party was distracted and/or not engaged in the conversation
  • the conversation was all over the place

Now, reflect on a meaningful, constructive conversation you’ve had. What made that conversation different to the first one you recalled? In my experience, constructive conversations boil down to having four key elements: 

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1) Purpose

  • I’m clear on why we are having this conversation
  • I feel it is an important conversation to be had 
  • I feel this is the right time to be having the conversation

 2) Presence 

  • Physical presence – the right people are involved in the conversation 
  • Emotional presence –  everyone involved is fully present and not distracted 
  • Intellectual presence – everyone is switched on mentally and have brought their “A-game”

 3) Psychological Safety 

  • I will be able to express my view points freely 
  • I feel I will be heard 
  • There will be no negative consequences for expressing my views 

 4) Process

  • Be clear on the process – where, when and how
  • Ensuring all voices are heard
  • Reaching an agreement and/or aligning on next steps

Next time you’re preparing for a constructive conversation, apply these four principles and see the difference.