I think we could change the world if we could just truly listen to each other and strive to understand where others are coming from.
There are three key elements to a successful conversation. The first two are probably familiar, advocacy and inquiry, but the third element might be a bit unfamiliar; checking for understanding. It makes total sense that you would explain your position, inquire as to someone else’s, and then to check to make sure you understood their position and they yours. Brilliant! How often do we actually do that? I know I need to do it a lot more. Such a simple thing to do which can eliminate so many misunderstandings.
Now that I have my own “Ah ha” moment out of the way. Let’s look at the three elements staring with advocacy.
Effective advocacy is expressing your specific position or concern in a succinct manner. Include facts to explain what leads you to take a particular position. Avoid getting into a long story that “justifies” what you think or feel. Your experience is completely valid the way it is. Be sure to make a clear proposal for action and not just talk about your concerns. Your advocacy is the fuel for others to align with you or identify where they disagree. End your advocacy with an invitation to respond such as… “Does that makes sense?”….or “How does that sound to you?”… Often people will ignore what you say and proceed to tell you what they think, without addressing what you have just said.
Effective inquiry means asking questions from a position of curiosity to understand the roots of another person’s concerns, position, or opinion. It demonstrates to another person that they are being heard by you. This builds trust in a relationship. It also identifies assumptions you may have made that are not accurate. Which leads us to the critical nature of checking for understanding.
It’s useful to check to see if you really understood what they said. Distill and synthesize what you heard. They have the opportunity to correct your understanding and can help build trust in your relationship as well as minimize miscommunication errors.
Here are the three elements of a great conversation again:
1 – Advocate
2 – Inquire
3 – Check for understanding
Let’s change the world by starting with effective communication ourselves.
“It is error only, and not truth, which shrinks from inquiry.” – Thomas Paine