Think about the last conversation you had with your best friend. Now think about the last conversation you had with your mother, the last one you had with your child, or with a perfect stranger. How did the conversations affect you? Did you have the power in the conversation, or was it an even dialogue? Did you feel heard? Did you do a good job of listening?
Conversations — whether in email form, verbal, or with body language alone – are what define all of our relationships. They are the basis around which we get to know each other, build trust with one another, and foster kinship. As Judith E. Glaser puts it in her book Conversational Intelligence, “Everything happens through conversations.”
The conversations we have at work are central to a positive workplace culture. Yes, you can try to blindly implement top-down corporate culture policies, but what impact will they have if they don’t change how people communicate with one another? And exactly how effective will an attempted shift in workplace culture be if the people who make up your business aren’t part of the conversation?
Think back to those everyday conversations you have. Was each conversation of the same quality? Of course not. You get the most out of your conversations when they are open, engaging, and encouraging. Perhaps you have the best conversations with your spouse because you’re able to be honest without fear of reproach. How can you bring that sort of honesty into the conversations you have with co-workers? Would that shift help improve a negative workplace culture? You bet it would.
The impact of workplace culture can be felt through every reach of your organization. A poor culture will lead to unhappy employees, which will lead to unhappy customers. Both will lead to lower profits, higher turnover, and thus, an even worse company culture.
The way to break the cycle is through conversation.
But talk alone isn’t enough. You and your team must have the conversational intelligence to make your discussions as fruitful as possible. Fruitful discussions lead to action, they lead to increases in trust and comradery, and they lead to a stronger foundation from which to build.
So think about your conversations at work. Could they be more fruitful? Could they be more positive? How could improving your conversational intelligence improve your entire work experience?