Restoring our Civility through Conversational Intelligence®

Our country is paying the price for soaking in cortisol tubs of toxicity for the past year and a half. The 2016 U.S. election has strained marriages, divided friendships, and made civil discourse a thing of the past. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Some things just can’t be unseen or unheard.

We are in a desperate need of a national detox.   

During this election, it was easy to run to opposing corners, affirm our points of view, and delegitimize different opinions. As a result, many ended up “shouting at” versus “talking with” each other about important ideas. It fueled our ego’s addiction to being right.

Instead of connecting with one another with empathy, we turned the volume up to a “LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING! 11” as a way to win arguments.

I have one question: How’s that working out for us?  

Humans crave safety and belonging. Yet, this election process has stoked national anxiety, worry, and fear. And as a result, there is little oxygen left in the room or online for comprising voices.

And now, we’re all suffering from the overproduction of toxic, catabolic energy that has corroded our trust in our United States.

By almost every measure, the nation’s political leaders will most likely continue to feast on their influence, while ample opportunists will gladly stir the pot.

Yet, as they continue to break each other down, we can choose to lift each other up. We have a choice.   

We can take the road less traveled.

"If the ocean can calm itself, so can you.
We are all saltwater mixed with air."

-Nayyirah Waheed

I believe our nation needs a conversation reboot to re-initiate trust building. The energy from new conversations is the best way to rebuild relationships and, in my case, pelotons. According to Dr. Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence®, conversations are how work gets done. Of course, the most important conversation that affects our impact is one we have with ourselves.

Given today’s pace, complexity, and challenges, we can no longer afford to cling to our monolithic worldviews. This is true in our political, professional, and personal lives. Today, more than ever, it’s critical that we build bridges that connect people with different perspectives.  

But the truth is, this work is not easy because it requires the willingness to be influenced.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty … I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I often write about how my Last Bad Day was my spark to make the unconscious conscious. The election and its aftermath may be the spark we need to start new conversations, calm egos, and help all of us gain fresh perspectives.  We may end up agreeing to disagree on many topics. That’s fair. However, the upside is the co-creation of more solutions with greater energy, safety, and belonging in the future.  

Below, I’ve compiled some tips from Dr. Glaser’s work in Conversational Intelligence® to spark energetic conversations and create better tomorrows: 

  1.  Be Actively Listening – No doubt we will continue our iconic hustle and grind approach. Few can say we don’t spend enough time on the job. But being busy has a reactive cost. We often listen just to reply. Too many people wait just long enough for the other to stop talking so they can get their point across, again. And as a result, trust diminishes. However, when we listen to understand, we give our conversations “we” centric space that is critical for problem solving and trust building.

   "Listening is active. At its most basic level,

    it’s about focus, paying attention."

    - Simon Sinek

2.    Be Open – Our pursuit of innovation is often stymied by demands for perfection. As a result, many people play it safe and follow the Alpha’s worldview.  As a leader, being open to being influenced means you accept that you may not have all the answers. And the better approach may even have a blemish or two.

“How many times did I try to prove that I was right when it wasn’t worth it?”  - Marshall Goldsmith

3.    Be Curious – Being curious means asking questions for which you don’t know the answer. That’s a key step toward becoming a better listener. People often ask questions that are directives in disguise. Or they ask questions for which they already know the answer. Which is a test, not a question. It’s time to put our agendas aside, be curious, and listen for possibilities.  

"Be Curious, not Judgmental"  - Walt Whitman

4.    Prime for Trust – Place your relationships before your tasks, and approach your conversations with empathy. Many people will contend that there’s no time for this.

"It’s too slow Michael. I have to get things done (GTD)."

I hear you. You have a choice. You can choose to do things the old (GTD) way or you can do them a new way. The old way usually has more drama and less trust. Oh, and over time it’s slower and less successful. It’s now time to get relationships done (GRD).

"He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted."  – Lao Tzu 

After the votes are counted today, it’s time heal and come together tomorrow.

We can start by listening to one another, connecting with open minds, and appreciating different perspectives at work and in life. We can establish new rituals that help us co-create answers to our problems. We can strengthen our safety, belonging, and spark an energy rejuvenation.

Doesn’t that sound like a better future?  

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Michael is an executive and team coach who helps business leaders change their stories to enhance energy, trust, and success at work and in life. He makes tomorrow better. 

You can learn more about Conversational Intelligence® by clicking Listen. 

This election has drained our energy. Learn about five important areas to help you restore your energy and keep you on your journey toward your best at work and in life. Click Energy for your free download.