How to make difficult conversations easy
Life in the Information Age allows us to connect with each other 24/7 because of our phones, computers and other devices. Yet, studies show that more and more people feel isolated and socially disconnected. This includes having far fewer meaningful interactions with their spouses, weaker ties with family members and friends, fewer connections with neighbors and less involvement with their local communities.
It is not only the general sense of disconnection that makes having meaningful, face-to-face conversations more and more challenging. Many of us have fallen into the habit of relying too heavily on technology. We feel more comfortable chatting via short texts and emojis than in a direct conversation. Recently, someone asked me whether he should break up with his girlfriend via e-mail or WhatsApp. He was leaning towards sending an e-mail, because it seemed more personal and classier to him – almost like a hand-written letter. The problem with screen-to-screen interactions is that more than 70% of the communication is non-verbal. Our facial expressions, eye contact, body language and tone of voice are critical cues during a conversation. These often subtle, non-verbal forms of communication can convey more about our intentions, emotions and energies than well-crafted sentences. It is no wonder, that messaging or e-mails can lead to us feeling misunderstood or unable to get our point across.
As we are relying more and more on technology to interact, we are losing the art of human connection. Since a direct interaction requires more than three word sentences and cannot be lightened up with emojis, we increasingly avoid important or difficult conversations both at work and at home.
My special guest this week is business consultant and co-author of Meaningful Alignment, Susan Steinbrecher. With Meaningful Alignment she and her co-author, Robert Schaefer PH.D., have developed a program to help individuals and teams learn how to improve their ability to successfully communicate.
Here is a message from Susan:
“The difficulty we all face when effectively communicating with coworkers, customers, neighbors, and even family members, is a very real and painful social problem. Our lives have become so immersed in smart technology that contacting one another at any hour of the day or night has become the new normal. In fact, our ability to connect through multiple mediums has never been easier—or more powerful. Unfortunately, this omnipresent connectivity often fails to facilitate encounters that are meaningful and personally rewarding. In the same way that information does not equate to knowledge, and followers do not equate to friends, communication does equate to meaningful understanding.
“Rather than serving as a conduit for connection, our universal accessibility has created the exact opposite: disconnection. Take, for example, the workplace. We live amid a sweeping trend that confuses frequent communication efforts with effective collaboration, wherein the allocation of work is intelligently based on our priorities, capacities and personal growth. Throughout the workplace, we often mistake signal with noise and productivity with busyness. As a consequence, many people are routinely lulled into a state of overproduction, saying yes to every person, project and meeting request. The ego-driven desire many feel to be the standout superstar at work has backfired, generating an enormous cost to the teams they sincerely desire to serve.
“Although it is easy for us to blame our ever-expanding work week and saturated inboxes on things beyond our immediate control, the real enemy we must confront is ourselves. When we do engage in face-to-face communication, many of us lack the tools required to tackle the difficult subject and to engage the difficult person. Despite the glowing promise of the Information Age making us more productive, we’ve lost what matters the most in the process: the art of conversation. We believe that the social problems we are facing can be overcome one relationship at a time, beginning with the relationship we have with ourselves. It is only when we engage in the inner work of reflection and the outer work of skill development that we will be capable of effective collaboration at work and at home and able to realize lasting happiness with the most important people in our lives.”
Join Susan and I this Thursday, July 18th at 9AM PT / noon ET on Empowerment Radio and learn well-defined, practical, and effective tools to manage your emotions and deftly facilitate the emotions of others during a tough conversation.