An interview with Shawn Kent Hayashi on Conversations for Change
Whether you're trying to motivate a team, negotiate a contract, make a sale, ask for a raise, land a new job, or terminate an employee, the conversations you have will either help you succeed or undermine your goals.
Shawn Kent Hayashi’s new book is based on more than two decades studying how the things people say impact their business and professional lives. In her book Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say it Right When It Matters Most , she identifies the most important types of conversations people have, and shows readers how to use these conversations effectively.
My recent interview with Shawn went like this:
1. Your book suggests that there are common foundations to every effective conversation, even conversations that superficially appear very different. What are these common foundations?
Emotional Intelligence, Preferred Communication Styles and Workplace Motivators are the foundation for all effective meaningful conversation. What I mean by this is that we need to be aware of our emotions and self regulate so we stay focused on what we want to create or accomplish. The first chapter of CONVERSATIONS FOR CHANGE explains how to do this. We do not want to have an emotional hijack that takes us off focus. We also benefit by understanding the other person's preferred communication style and motivators so that we build rapport and common purpose for momentum in our work together.
2. Which are the most important kinds of conversations in organizations?
All 12 conversations types are important -- there is not one that is more important than another. Problems arise when we are missing some of the conversations. Our preferred communication style gives clarity about which of the types of conversations would be most comfortable and most challenging for us.
What is easy for your manager or peer may be the most challenging for you -- and vice versa. For example, I worked with a coaching client who did not know how to have conversations for conflict resolution -- he was very passive and ignored conflict. This was having a negative impact on his team and his performance. Once he learned how to confidently create conversations for conflict resolution his management effectiveness increased. For another executive the conversation that was missing was for connection. She was communicating her vision and giving direction but she had not taken the time to connect on a meaningful level -- thus she did not know what motivated her team members. She was troubled by the lack of engagement she saw in her organization but she did not see that her lack of conversations for connection was part of the problem. When she began to listen and connect around style and motivators with her team members she saw many positive changes.
3. Can people learn to improve their ability to conduct effective conversations? How?
Yes! By thinking about when each type of conversation would be useful and then practicing the ones that are most difficult.
4. Your book suggests that conversational skills can improve productivity in any business or organization. Could you explain how conversation skills improve productivity?
When we have shared meaning, goals, and direction we accomplish more. When we are aligned around the goals and understand each person's role and how best to work together we can create amazing results. This requires regular communication.
5. What are the four distinct communication styles that the book identifies?
The book highlights what each of these mean, how to identify each style and what to do when communicating with someone whose style is different from yours.
6. What do you mean by “an effective conversation”? How do you know when a conversation is "effective"?
When meaning is shared or clearly understood between people or a group of people and momentum occurs we have an effective conversation.
7. What role does authenticity play in effective conversations?
Authenticity is vital for trust. When we have a shared goal and are able to play to the strengths of each other's preferred communication style, we will experience authenticity in being able to be ourselves at work.
8. Is a focus on conversational effectiveness compatible with authenticity and genuine listening?
Yes, conversational effectiveness is compatible with authenticity and genuine listening. When we care enough to listen to the other person we are making a deposit in the shared emotional bank account and we build trust. Active Listening includes several steps:
· Restate what you heard the other person say in your own words
· Ask several questions to confirm and clarify based on what you know about the topic
· Then share your own reaction or views
The more complex or emotional the conversation the more focused on active listening we need to be.
9. The book details different types of conversations, explaining when to use them and how to develop them, and offering specific phrases to start each dialogue. Is there a risk that scripting conversations in advance in such detail could actually undermine genuine conversation?
The goal is to be clear about the menu of communication options. We do not want to be so scripted that we are not able to listen in the moment. If we go into a conversation with clarity about what we want, and prepared with the right dialogue, we will be much more effective.
10. What role does storytelling play in effective conversations?
Our ability to tell a story or to highlight an example is very useful for building rapport and making our point. Recently, I observed a coaching client using an ineffective communication strategy. Afterwards I told him a story about me trying to accomplish something with a butter knife and how much simpler the task was when someone brought me a drill and I used it instead. The drill enabled me to accomplish the task with ease! I asked him if he'd like me to give him a drill that would be more effective in the particular communication issue he had been working on. He said, "Yes!' This was a short story that painted a picture quickly.
We also need to be aware of the stories we make up in our thinking that are not accurate but that let ourselves off the hook. Another coaching client of mine, Sarah, shared catching herself creating negative stories. On a long flight, Sarah asked the stewardess for a cup of tea. The tea was not delivered. My client told herself a convincing story that the stewardess was "rude and did not like waiting on women." Then she turned that into a story about the airline and how they did not hire and train people to be focused on good customer service. Twenty minutes into this frustrating internal dialogue, the stewardess arrived with the tea and said to Sarah, "I apologize this took a bit longer than I hoped, I have been helping an elderly gentleman who fell." Sarah realized her own negative story was incorrect and a waste of time. She realized she had been doing the exact same thing with her boss -- Sarah had made up stories about her boss' actions. These negative stories did not serve anyone. Becoming aware of the stories we are making up and what their impact is on us enables our self awareness to grow.
SHAWN KENT HAYASHI is the founder of
The Professional Development Group (www.TheProfessionalDevelopmentGroup.com)
and author of five business communication books. Using an assessment-based approach, her
company helps people improve their emotional intelligence, communication
skills, build stronger relationships and teams, and make more effective
Shawn Kent Hayashi: Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say it Right When It Matters Most (McGraw Hill, 2010)