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  • Writer's pictureKate Bradshaw

Conversational Intelligence

Yesterday we were very fortunate to receive an introduction to Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) from Sarah Moore.

Our accommodation leadership team spent two hours being introduced to the principles of Conversational Intelligence and discovering what get's in the way of us having more productive conversations with colleagues, partners and family members.

Sarah introduced us to the work of Judith E. Glaser author and organisational anthropologist, her work presents a framework for knowing which kind of conversations trigger the lower, more primitive brain and which conversations activate higher-level intelligence's such as trust, integrity, empathy, and good judgement.

Sarah shared with the team that Conversational Intelligence is the hardwired ability in all humans to connect, engage and navigate with others. It is the most important intelligence that gets better when we do it together. While the other types of intelligence are more I-centric in nature, Conversational Intelligence is a collaborative effort. We can raise the Conversational Intelligence level in personal relationships as well as the teams and organisations we are a part of.

Conversations are not always what we think they are. We’ve grown up believing in a narrow view of conversations, thinking they are about expressing thoughts, observations and opinions. Many see conversations as persuasion or getting others to think the way I think.

It's not about how smart you are, but how open you are to learn new and effective powerful conversational rituals that prime the brain for trust, partnership, and mutual success. Conversational Intelligence translates the wealth of new insights coming out of neuroscience from across the globe, and brings the science down to earth so people can understand and apply it in their everyday lives. Conversational Intelligence helps people know what kind of conversations trigger the lower, more primitive brain; and what activates higher-level intelligence's such as trust, integrity, empathy, and good judgement.

Multi Dimensional Approach

Conversations are not just a one-dimensional sharing of information; they are multi-dimensional. Understanding how to access the right dimension for a situation is the art of conversations. With C-IQ, there are three levels of conversations, each representing a way of interacting with others. When members of a team, partnership or company learn C-IQ together, they get in sync in extraordinary ways. As a result, the work they do together elevates results to heights never before achieved. For example, when a leader says, “We need to move to Level III,” everyone knows what that means and moves in sync toward that direction. It transforms a team of leaders in seconds. The coach calls the play, and everyone knows what to do, instantly.

  • Level I: Transactional conversations Transactional conversations include interaction dynamics such as asking and telling. These types of conversations confirm what we know and give people a platform for giving and receiving information.

  • Level II: Positional conversations Positional conversations include interaction dynamics such as advocating and inquiring. These conversations allow us to defend what we know and give people a platform for having and expressing a strong opinion about something. In these conversations, we are less open to influence and more interested in selling our ideas.

  • Level III: Transformational conversations Transformational conversations, also called co-creating conversations, include interaction dynamics such as sharing and discovering. This means asking questions for which you have no answers, listening to the collective, discovering that we don’t know we don’t know, and sharing insights and wisdom. This generative way of having conversations leads to more innovative insights, more disruptive thinking and deeper listening to connect to others’ perspectives. People are more candid, more trusting and more open to influence.

Sarah outlined to us that Conversational Intelligence is all about closing the gaps between your reality and mine. As such, it can yield improved business results and create a framework for enhancing relationships and partnerships, releasing new energy for growth and transformation. For many, it may be a new concept to think that what we hold in our head — as our reality — is not necessarily what others see.

Each of us maps the world through our experiences. We create the meaning, and then we share it with others.Conversations provide the tools for talking about what we think and feel, and if the conversations are healthy and robust, we will come to see how others view the world and learn to work successfully with them.

Distrust leads to defensive listening; trust leads to intelligent listening. Creating a healthy, trusting environment is the first step to gaining Conversational Intelligence. When intentions are set on bridging our realities, being open and transparent, focusing on respect and relationships before tasks, listening to understand, discovering shared success and consistently working to narrow the reality gaps, we are exercising our conversational muscles. When we do that, we are much more likely to achieve organisational goals and perhaps our personal ones as well.

Overcoming the addiction to being right

When we feel strongly that our point of view is right, our brain focuses on looking for evidence. We stop listening to other perspectives and fight for our point of view. This causes other people to be afraid of engaging with us and creates a culture of conflict avoidance. Leaders who are addicted to being right tend to think that everyone else is wrong. They often fail to see and acknowledge the negative impact this has on culture.

Conversational rituals vs. conversational taboos

Conversational rituals are how we architect a conversation and structure interaction dynamics in a conversation. They activate the neurochemicals that drive our conversations and behaviour. Rituals hold all cultures together because they are sticky; they create cultural norms. Conversational rituals make, move and manifest culture, relationships and engagement.

Rituals define a culture and transfer norms that hold us together. While conversational rituals embody what to do, conversational taboos embody what not to do. For example, it may be taboo to tell a boss you disagree with him, or to upstage her. When you engage in a taboo, you usually get into trouble.

The word culture is an abstract term that describes how we do things around here, along with many other behaviours that are visible and invisible. Culture includes both visible and invisible things that drive us to connect or disconnect with others. Neuroscience research has identified isolation as the most important reason why people get sick, and fail to achieve their goals. Isolation is like living with a phone that rings but no one answers.

Conversation rituals create culture that activates the glue of success. Since conversational rituals embody what to do and conversational taboos embody what not to do, we build communities and cultures as we engage with others over time. We can create a culture of trust using conversational intelligence skills. As the C-IQ skills evolve from Level I to Level III and people get better at using them, the culture evolves. When you start with the basics and build on a strong foundation, your C-IQ skills improve and create a culture of trust.

C-IQ starts with five foundational skills:

  1. Listen to connect

  2. Ask questions for which you have no answer

  3. Prime for trust

  4. Sustain conversational agility

  5. Double-click to get inside of what others are actually seeing, feeling and want to say

When you decide to experiment with C-IQ essentials and core methodologies, you’ll see a shift take place in your leaders, culture and brand. A sense of personal identity and responsibility will emerge that propels your organisation forward — not as an individual “I” but as a collective “we.”The result is mutual success!

The team learnt so much about how to build trust with colleagues and all were keen to implement their learnings into practice and at home.

The following link provides an excellent overview of how C-IQ can help with your success in opening up healthy and productive conversations, that elevate trust and build human connections. We have also included a link to a short introductory video that provides some insight into the Neuroscience Of Conversations.

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