Sustaining Productive Conversations

Conversation Model

Every day hundreds of conversations (whether department meetings, task force updates, performance reviews or chance hallway encounters) could benefit from the conscious utilization of a few key concepts that make the difference between a missed opportunity and a productive exchange. It is in conversation that your interpersonal capabilities to engage others, influence their thinking and resolve difficult issues is tested.

The Conversation Model is a graphic representation of conversation as a “playing field.”

The Model depicts various possible conversational dynamics. At the top, we see the most effective balance among the parties of Informing (or telling), on the one hand, and Inquiring (or listening) on the other, ultimately resulting in maximized 1) understanding and 2) agreement.

Moving around the model, we see progressively less effective conversational dynamics, resulting in “agreements” to which the parties are less and less committed. At the bottom, we see the “fight/flight” syndrome, where winning and not losing become the goals, and the original reason for the conversation is lost in the shuffle.