Conversations Matter – But are you really giving them the attention they deserve?

  • How many conversations do you have each day?
  • Do you ever stop to think about how a conversation went?
  • Do you ever consider the impact the conversation had on the other person?
  • Do you give your conversations the attention they deserve?

We engage in conversations every single day for many different reasons. They are the way we connect, engage, navigate, and transform the world and they are critical to our individual and organisational success. So when was the last time you actually sat down and thought about your conversations. How they went? what worked?  what didn’t? did it achieve the desired objectives? how did the conversation make the other person feel? and what could you have done to make the conversation more effective?

I don’t know about you but I must admit that for many years I took the value of conversations for granted and when I think back now to some of the conversations I have had over the years, knowing what I know now, I realise how important they are.

Gone are the days where conversations were simply a means of sharing information, telling people what to do (or what not to do) or what’s on our mind. Neurological and cognitive research tells us that conversations go much deeper than just information sharing. They are dynamic, interactive, inclusive and can have a significant impact on the way we connect, engage, interact and influence others.  Conversations are also one of the most accessible, powerful and cost effective tools that we have available to us in life and in business and done well they can transform individual and organisational performance because they can shift mindsets and shape reality, events, and outcomes in a positive and collaborative way.

So why don’t we give them the focus that they deserve?

In 2016, my passion for all things neuroscience led me to study Conversational Intelligence for Coaches (CIQ) – a framework developed by Judith E. Glasser that shows us how conversations create powerful relationships and culture and how by applying this framework individuals and organisations can make significant changes and achieve extraordinary results in engagement, performance and ultimately productivity.

Judith’s work and the CIQ framework really resonated with me because it is based on neuroscience. It is backed by scientific research and it provides easy to understand techniques that can be applied to any type of conversation. This combined with recent findings in the field of social cognitive neuroscience which also provides us with a fact-based, deeper understanding of how the brain works, how relationships are built and broken, the impact emotions have on how people think, react, and ultimately behave and how we can better communicate with each other can be used to significantly improve our workplace conversations.

‘Achieving greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations. Everything happens through conversations’…. Judith E. Glasser

A truer word has never been said, everything does happen through conversations from ordering our morning coffee, to interacting with colleagues, engaging with customers or clients, delivering a sales pitch, conducting performance reviews with team members, facilitating a coaching conversation, engaging in a safety interaction with workers, the list goes on. In fact, there really aren’t too many things that we do in life where we are interacting with other people that don’t involve conversations, yet we often take the value of them particularly in the workplace for granted.

Worst still, we often fail to recognise that every single conversation we have has an impact and it’s not always a positive one and there lies the issue when it comes to building healthy, engaged and high performing individuals and organisations.  If we don’t get our conversations right despite our best intentions, the impact can be significant on individuals and on outcomes.

As I said earlier in this article, conversations are the way we connect, engage, navigate, and transform the world.  Done right, they can create an environment that builds trust, supports innovation, and enhances relationships leading to healthy, productive, high-performing individuals, teams, and organisations. Even if we are having a difficult conversation, if it is a ‘good’ one, we feel good because our trust network has been triggered. We feel connected to the other person and we feel we can trust them.  In good conversations, we know where we stand with others and we feel safe.

Done wrong, conversations can be damaging. They can create fear, conflict, and negativity resulting in a decline in performance because they trigger our distrust network and when this is triggered it has a much longer lasting effect than if our trust network is triggered.

For example, criticism from your boss delivered in the ‘wrong way’, a disagreement with a colleague or an argument with a family member or friend can make you forget weeks or months of praise because when we face criticism, rejection or fear, our bodies produce higher levels of Cortisol. This causes our prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of our brains) to shut shown and activates our amygdala which is responsible for our fight, flight or freeze response. Suddenly it is easier to forget, or discount all the times that someone told you were talented, good at what you do or that you make them proud and you begin to internalise the negativity.

In this state, we often perceive issues to be bigger than what they are or start ‘seeing’ issues that don’t even exist…… (Think back to Marslow Hierarchy of Needs and more recently David Rock’s ‘Brain’s Organising Principles of Threat vs Reward’)

 In a ‘bad’ conversation, we feel that our needs are not being met and we are in a state of threat.…we become more negative, defensive, and sensitive and these effects can last for more than 26 hours because Cortisol functions in a similar way to a sustained-release tablet.  The more we think about our fear or what happened, the longer the impact lasts.

On the flip side, positive comments, and engaging conversations, ‘Good’ conversations also produce a chemical reaction. They trigger the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that moves us into the ‘Reward’ state and increases our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others and when we are in a ‘Reward’ state, we do our best work.  For this reason alone, we can see why the quality of conversations is so important and it sounds so simple, so why do we still get it so wrong. Why are so many conversations that we have in the workplace so poor?

Research conducted by Judith E. Glasser, found that as many as 95% of verbal exchanges in the workplace are ‘telling conversations’.

Telling conversations, are conversations where we are told what to do, how to do it, when to do it. The issue with this is that our brain is ‘lazy’. Its automatic default is to conserve energy and one of the easiest ways to do this is by avoiding the ‘hard work’ of thinking unless it really has to.  So, when we are told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, we don’t have to think and when we don’t have to think, we don’t engage, when we don’t engage we aren’t operating at our best?

Using what we have learnt from the field of neuroscience and by applying the principles of Conversational Intelligence (CIQ), we can transform our conversations, enhance individual performance, and strengthen the organisations culture to achieve greater business results.

So maybe it’s time we start to ReThink Conversations™ and give them the attention that they deserve and you can start today simply by thinking about the conversations you have, are they ‘telling conversations’ or are they empowering and engaging conversations that promote innovation and creativity, facilitate positive change and coach for high performance?

Rethinking the way, you engage in conversations can take you, your team, and your organisation to the next level of greatness, who doesn’t want that!

Interested in finding out how you can ReThink Conversations to help you or your organisation? contact our team at or call us on 1800 INSYNC | +612 8544 1837 or 08 0000 2133 (New Zealand)

*ReThink Conversationsis a neuroscience based program that provides participants with the knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques they need to develop their conversational capability to improve leverage, engagement, connection, productivity, and performance.