S3: Ep. 94:What is the default setting for your conversations? A Disruptive Conversations with Daniel Stillman.


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By Keita Demming. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
In this conversation with Daniel, you hear from two people who are really fascinated with understanding conversations. We take a practical and philosophical journey thinking about and exploring our current thoughts on conversations.
Here are some of the things that stood out for me in this conversation.
We are designing conversations all the time.
If you have ever asked a friend to read an email, you are about to send. If you thought to yourself “how should I say this?” If you have ever done anything similar to that, you were designing a conversation. We design conversations all the time. The challenge is that we are not often intentional about designing our conversations. In this conversation, Daniel gives some great tips on how you should approach designing conversations. In his words, “We’re all designed in conversations to try and titrate and clarify our intent in hopes of achieving our goals.” You should also visit his website: The Conversation Factory to read his book and download some great material.
We have conversations all the time, yet we spend very little time thinking about them.
Daniel spends a lot of time thinking about and designing conversations. We communicate every day, yet very few of us thinking about this action we take that builds our future. One of the ways to design a conversation is to be as specific as possible.
Conversations have structure.
Spaces influence the conversations we have. This space can be physical, or it can be the space between words. All our conversations have a structure. Most of the times, we are not aware of the structure. Space is just one example of the elements that influence our conversations. In his book, Daniel outlines what he calls the Nine Elements of the Conversation Operation System. The elements are:
Error and Repair.
I strongly suggest reading his book. It is both a great introduction to conversations and an excellent summary of help frameworks for designing conversations.
What are you tuning into in a conversation?
In conversation, we tune into things. Sometimes we are intentional about what we tune into. However, most of the time, we are unintentional. There is considerable value in paying attention to what you are attending to in your conversations.
Design your conversations
We set up our spaces to have conversations. The spaces in which we have conversation speak to the kinds of conversations we can have. One of the things that Daniel has helped me do is to double down on my belief that people should be designing their conversations. He helps people do it for a living. In the same way that we work on other skills, we should strive to have better conversations.
Designing the conversations starts before the conversation.
In the podcast, we talk about designing conversations within a facilitation setting. This principle, however, is one that I believe should apply to any important conversation. If you have a conversation that matters, try designing it before you enter the conversation.
There is value in silence.
One of the easiest ways to design your conversations is by leveraging silence. There is, however, a caveat, most of us respond after about two hundred milliseconds. In conversations, if we take longer than that to respond, our brains interpret that as trouble ahead. So ask permission to think for a bit. Having said that, silence can give you tremendous control in conversations. Use it wisely. Before we segue off of this point, here is something to think about. We can think at 4000 words per minute, yet we speak at 125 words per minute. What does this mean? It mainly means that you are getting only a small portion of what they are thinking when someone is speaking. Silence can transform conversations.
What do we mean by design?
In my view, design usually starts with a question. In the best cases, it is focusing question. In our conversation, four conversational design questions stood out for me:
Daniel talked about how design asks you to notice the choices that you are making. What are the implications of the choices that you are making?
What if versus what is? Are you thinking about who is attached to which question? Are you thinking about who has a vested interest in exploring one question over the other?
Are we having the same conversation?
How adaptable are you? A question inspired by the Tendayi Viki who appeared on episode 61.
I am going to continue to think about these questions.
Midwifery and Palliative care
For regular listeners, you may notice that theme of Palliative care and Midwifery has appeared again. Daniel talks about it within the context of grief and that people need to grieve the loss of whatever is changing. There are three parts in all change contexts: what is being midwifed into existence, what needs palliative care, and the bridge between the two. It is also important to think about or visit the Berkner to Loop model which Daniel also references in his book
Are we having the same conversation?
Daniel used a nice metaphor to talk about what designed conversation does. From our perspectives, designed conversations give us more clarity and focus. They help ensure we are having the same conversation and not speaking past each other. Take some time and imagine you were to open a door and I am trying to close the door from the other side. What happens to the door? Whoever is stronger gets their way. If, however, we’re both trying to open the door together or close the door together, then we’re going to be working together. The door will open or close with more force, with more acceleration. I love this metaphor, and it reminds me of my conversation with John Robinson and his sailboat approach to change and disruption Check out episode 69 here.
Speed and cocreation are more durable.
This notion is something that really resonated with me. I cannot count the number of times people have not had the patience for co-creation, yet cocreation produces much better results. If we are going to have something owned by everyone, it is going to take more time. We are addicted to the expert, and although Daniel does not say this, I think it has to do with our perceived notion that an expert can get us there faster and our addiction to silver bullets.
Light touches make it hard to demonstrate your value.
Something I often struggle with is as a coach, is that I believe that when you are doing your best work, the client feels like they did it themselves. This always poses a question to the value you bring, but it is an important way to continue working.
To learn more about Daniel Stillman visit:
The Conversation Factory: https://theconversationfactory.com/

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