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Know the Building Blocks of Dialogue that Lead to New Learning, Innovation and Synergy

With the complexity and continuous change leaders
and managers face today, continuous learning,
responsiveness, adaptation and innovation are
essential survival skills. Yet, one constant that
human beings seem to want and need more than
anything when they are in relationship to another
human is to be heard. So often in conversation, we
spend a lot more time advocating for our position
rather than seeking to hear and understand

Listening may be the single most powerful skill of
communication for it is an act of respect and of
valuing. It seems counterintuitive, yet when we
listen and seek to understand first, we also
create more receptivity in the other to hear us.
When we create such an environment of safety,
people are willing to take risks and new learning
can occur.

There are four building blocks of conversation
that help people move out of defensive,
routinized, or reactive communication patterns
that inhibit movement towards clear action and
successful achievement of desired goals.

1. Developing Your Listening Skills 'This
includes eye contact, listening without thinking
of one's rebuttals or preparing for what to say
next, listening for emotional content as well as
information, and asking questions to clarify

2. Seeking to Suspend Judgment 'To be human is to
be a judgment manufacturer. We are always in the
process of making judgments, both positive and
negative. Whether we are judging ourselves or
others, judgment shuts down creativity,
imagination and learning.. Whether you agree or
disagree with the other person, your judgments
will limit your ability to listen and learn
something new. Be aware that negative judgments
are particularly damaging to your ability to
listen. Strive to first be aware of your
judgments. In so doing, you can become clear that
this is a reaction and you can then more
objectively bring it into the conversation as an

3. Testing Your Assumptions 'Assumptions are all
those things that we think we know about how
reality is, whether for ourselves or for others.
We carry multiple sets of assumptions that act as
lenses or filters for our perceptions. Because
each of us has a unique life experience, we each
carry a unique set of assumptions although we do,
of course, also have shared assumptions which
serve to glue us together. Effective communication
demands that we test our own assumptions as well
as clarify those of others. Only then can we know
that we are speaking a shared language of meaning.
Different assumptions in and of themselves don't
create problems so much as the need to be right
about our assumptions!

4. Balancing use of inquiry with advocating your
own position and interests 'Growing out of the
ability to listen, inquiry is about asking
questions and holding an attitude of curiosity.
Questions that seek to understand (as opposed to
questions that seek to interrogate) create
doorways into new levels of understanding and
learning for both the speaker and the listener.
Inquiry, by its very nature, can deepen your
ability to think systemically because questions
often reveal the relationships among the parts
that make up the whole.

Organizations and businesses need to create
effective communication cultures in order to
thrive. The competitive edge in business will be
maintained by those who are continually learning
how to improve. Leaders who understand and
employ these high-impact communication strategies
will create robust and resilient organizations
that cannot only adapt to the new challenges and
changing conditions of these uncertain times but
can actually thrive.

About the Author

Manya Arond-Thomas, M.D., is the founder of Manya
Arond-Thomas & Company, a coaching and consulting
firm that catalyzes the creation of 'right
results' through facilitating executive
development, high-performance teams and
organizational effectiveness. She can be reached
at (734) 480-1932 or e-mailed at
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