Why do I listen when some people speak and not others? How many times did I come out of a meeting without achieving what I wanted? To be able to design a conversation is fundamental learning for anyone looking to generate the results and actions that he or she wants. When we start to think of language and the act of speaking as a generator of the results that are important to us, we can draw the conclusion that conversations are critical for the development and the success of an organisation, as well as for the self-employed.

Communication is about listening, feeling and acting

What do people do in organisations and in business? One of the most important activities is to be in conversations: a manager spends between 63% and 69% of his time on speaking with other people. Conversations are the way in which human beings coordinate actions, share visions, innovate, or take care of what we care about. It is one of the foundations, very often forgotten, of how we generate action and results. In addition, language is a characteristic of human beings: it is one of the things that are at the heart of what people do. Language is not only descriptive, it is generative: it creates innovation, action and committment.

As language is the tool for designing conversations, it is important to start considering the masterful use of language and conversations as a fundamental leadership skill to be applied in organisational life: the leader or manager defines the future that is available for the team through the conversations that he/she has – or doesn´t have! We could learn a lot from the Americans about how to bring along messages. To the extent that language is action, language is also a source of power. The way we use language is a crucial aspect to consider when we evaluate how powerful we are in life: for example, the power to say ´no´ or the power to make promises and keep them, the power to make efficient requests, etc has a direct impact on how our future will look like.

A no is a yes: stand up for your opinions

For example, how many of us have a difficulty in making requests or saying “no”, in our professional as well as personal life? Some people find it so difficult to ask for things or favors, that they simply don´t ask. The reasons are many. For example “Who am I to deserve this?”, or “They are going to notice that I don´t know”. To make requests entails exposing oneself and even appearing vulnerable, but on the other hand it gives the other person the pleasure of feeling generous and needed. The same happens in love relationships: “If you ask for my help, you allow me to express my love for you”.Susana Lindblom

In addition, some people have the expectation that other people should understand what they need – they are in the game of “guess which is the request I will not make to you!”. Unfortunately, a lot of time is lost in guessing what the other person wants or needs – it is a conversational inefficiency and a source of frustration for both. Another aspect is how the way we make requests affects the results we get. If we get a “yes” or a “no” depends greatly on the emotional place that we speak from and how we ´show up´ when we ask.

If I don´t make requests or say “no”, I don´t have power of my own work and life and I am putting limits to my own freedom and that of my team. In addition, a person who doesn´t say “no” and does everything that is asked of him/her isn´t living in committment but does everything out of obligation. Is that what we want? To conclude, speaking isn´t innocent. Every time we speak (or don´t speak) implies a committment with the community and with others.

If we are more conscious of the magic of speech we can design more powerful conversations that generate committment and the results that we want. This is true for work relationships as well as with relationships with any other person that is important to us in our lives.

Susanna Lindblom