The Conversation is the Relationship

Respect Well-being


Key Point: “The conversation is the relationship.” This wonderful quote belongs to Susan Scott, the author of the best selling Fierce Conversations. Her point is: If the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all of the possibilities for the individuals in the relationship become smaller. If we compromise at work or at home and lower the standards about how often we talk, what we talk about, and, most important, what degree of authenticity we bring to our conversations – it’s a slow and deadly slide. Ernest Hemingway stated this so powerfully in his book The Sun Also Rises“How did you go bankrupt? Gradually then suddenly.”

I have to do better at learning how to have deeper, more powerful conversations. And as I grow older I fully realize that relationships are all that really matter. And if the relationship IS the conversation, I’ve got lots of work to do with the many people I so deeply care about. It is so tempting for me to live in my head, visit with my iPad, slouch into HBO, eat dinner with ESPN, and having access to everything digital makes it so easy to go there. Frankly, it is often easier. No one argues, disagrees, and gets into messy or uncomfortable emotions. But the trade off is emptiness and ultimately relationship deficit and at worse, bankruptcy. When I travel, I see a lot of older men sitting by themselves, having a beer and looking awfully lonely. Just saying…

The only way to go forward is to commit to more meaningful conversations. Perhaps as Scott suggests, the opening phrase might be, “how aren’t you?” Hmm. To take this seriously I strongly recommend reading Fierce Conversations and practicing the principles with those you love and care for. (I’ve read it before… Time for a revisit). Hey… It’s a return on investment issue… You get back what you put in. And yes life is squiggly, messy and sticky. The real you and me reflect that complexity. But like you and I, connecting with others in a deep way can be rich, authentic, and ultimately most rewarding.

Character Moves: (As taken from and only partly representative of the principles of Fierce Conversations… Please get the videos, read the book, practice, etc).

  1. Develop an outline of a conversation meant to dig deep (What Scott calls a “mineral rights” conversation): A. What’s going on relative to this issue? B. How is it impacting you? Who else is affected? C. If nothing changes, what are the implications? D. How have you contributed to this situation? E. What is the ideal outcome? F. What is the most potent step you can take to begin resolution?
  2. Debrief a conversation by asking yourself: A. Was I genuinely curious about this person and their reality? B. Did I work to understand reality from where he/she stands? C. Did feelings get expressed? D. What parts of me failed to show up? E. Who did most of the talking?
  3. Avoid these mistakes in one-to-one conversations: A. Doing most of the talking. B. Taking the problem away from someone. C. Not inquiring about feelings. D. Delivering unclear messages, coaching, instructions. E. Canceling the meeting. F. Allowing interruptions. G. Running out of time. H. Assuming your meetings are effective.

After doing intense assessments with top executives over the years, the single biggest hurdle beyond ego self-management, is the intent and skill to have deep meaningful conversations about the REAL issues. In the end, the conversation really is the relationship.

Relationship Conversations in The Triangle,