When was your last quality conversation?

Great conversation

Tips on how to make the most out of your daily dialogues


“No, you’re wrong.” “Why on earth would you think that?” “We don’t do it like that.”

How many times have you experienced these comments in the workplace? And how many times has it rapidly, perhaps unintentionally, prevented the creative thoughts and switched off the innovation light bulbs?

Conversations form our dialogue; we have them every day, all day. Every single one of these conversations has an effect on us, despite the fact we might not always be aware of it.


Our brain cells like to communicate with each other, and when they sense a conversation is taking a turn for the worse, they trigger anxiety and fear within us.

It takes .07 seconds for blood to fill to our primitive brain. Cortisol floods the brain, and our capacity to defend ourselves from damage is switched on. All parties in the conversation are likely to experience this reaction; increased heart rate, sweaty palms, heavy breathing and a reduced ability to regain concentration and motivation on the task at hand. We are hardwired to go into fight or flight mode when we feel threatened.

The quality of conversations is paramount to support and develop talented, high performing individuals in an effective working environment. More importantly quality conversations can increase an individual’s motivation and work ethic, ultimately increasing your organisations chance of success. So why don’t we have quality conversations more often? And, perhaps more importantly, what makes a quality conversation?

What constitutes a quality conversation?

State. Safe. Surface. Share.

Quality conversations are at the heart of addressing problematic and challenging issues. With the above facts in mind, it’s paramount to consider the impact our emotions can have on conducting an effective conversation. We need to increase our awareness of and regulate our emotions and the emotions of others. In addition, an attempt to positively affirm individual performance will be of great benefit.

Considering and practising the “Four S’s” below will ensure you are getting your point of view across confidently and asserting your needs.


State – the area most under your control is your own state: physical, emotional, and mental. Being conscious of your Body, Beat (heart), Breathing and Brain – before and during your conversation will make you more resilient against your emotional triggers.

  • Noticing – pay attention to what is happening to you emotionally and physically.
  • Labelling (the emotion) – “I’m feeling annoyed”. Establishing and labelling the emotion will make analysing the emotion easier.
  • Analysing – how you feel, about what, and why. For example, “I’m feeling irritated about the constant questioning I’m getting because it’s casting uncertainty upon my capability.”
  • Counting to 10 – may seem simplistic, but it is a rational activity and could be done anywhere!


Safe – creating the optimum environment for the conversation will help you settle on an outcome with which you can both work. Keeping a conversation ‘safe’ means that both parties can openly express their views and feelings without fear of being verbally criticised or made to feel vulnerable.

  • State what your intentions are: “I don’t want to put you down, I just want to understand the situation from your perspective and come up with a solution we’re both happy with”.
  • Find a mutual goal: “I know we both want this project to succeed and doing so will enhance both of our careers”.


Surface – bringing out the other person’s perceptions, expectations and needs by asking appropriate open questions.

  • “Tell me how you see the situation.”
  • “How are you feeling about this?”
  • “What were your expectations?”


Share – it is also important to share your own story and experience of the situation.

  • Reaffirm your goal and explain the situation from your perspective.
  • Share how addressing this situation can help you achieve your goal.
  • Share how it can help the other person achieve his/her goal, then check whether they agree.



Individuals need to trust that their ideas will be heard, and that they will get support once their ideas have been voiced. Shaping the conversation to enable individuals to speak up, and share their innovative thinking will allow for more creative thoughts and improved performance.

It is also of great importance to promote recognition amongst your colleagues when engaging in quality conversations. Too often employees have great innovative ideas, but no one listens or acknowledges them. Initiating conversations to celebrate success and acknowledge great work will encourage motivation and increased drive to do even better next time.