Skip to main content

What We Can Learn from Our Worst Conversations

What We Can Learn from Our Worst Conversations

I have been attending Judith Glaser's 7-month course on Conversational Intelligence. It offers new and improved methodologies for effective communication that you can apply to both work and life situations.

“Conversations are the social rituals that hold us together, the fabric of culture and society.”
— Judith E. Glaser

The course section on “Humanizing Conversations” explores how to down-regulate the behaviors that create distrust and up-regulate behaviors that build trust. No matter what we do in our professional lives, trust is the most important element in achieving extraordinary results. Trust is something that I have explored over the last 15 years through leadership development work. I always believed that listening was the most powerful skill to build trust.

[Related: The 4 Must-Do's That Build Your Credibility]

Conversational Intelligence takes the skill of listening a step further by providing more texture to “listening." Glaser uses the concept “deconstructing conversation,” which looks back to look forward -- examining a conversation after the fact to garner new insights. In the first few moments of contact in a conversation, our brain will determine whether to trust the other person. If that impact “feels good," we will move in the direction of opening up to more interactions. If that impact “feels bad," we will close down and move into protective mode.

In the deconstruction process think about these questions for exploration and learning.

  • Was either person addicted to being right?
  • Did you experience the “Tell-Sell-Yell” syndrome? (Tell them once, try to sell them why you are right, then yell)
  • Did you ask questions that you already knew the answers to?

If you said yes to any of these questions, you were operating from the primitive brain (amygdala) pumping cortisol, keeping you in a protected distrust state.

So, how do you shift from this part of the brain being triggered? The very first step is to recognize the neurological response and find ways to head off the fears. Understand where the fears may be coming from, and work backward to find a solution.

[Related: Neuroscience, Coaching & Conversational Intelligence]

How do we sideline these signals from the amygdala?

  • Notice how we react to threats (fight, flight, freeze, appease)
  • Acknowledge this reaction
  • Notice if we always choose the same reaction and how much the threat impacts us
  • Choose an alternative way to react in the moment (mindfulness techniques: breath in, breath out, express how you are feeling)
  • Become more aware of our responses and realize we can override our emotions and shift to other responses
  • Ultimately transform fear into trust

Stay tuned for more tips to have meaningful conversations that transform leaders and organizations!

This is the second in a blog series. Read the first blog at "Listening to Connect."

Photo credit: Rawpixel via Shutterstock.


Mary Stelletello brings 25 years experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to her coaching and consulting work in the areas of governance, leadership development, strategy development, strategic partnerships, training, facilitation and organizational capacity building. She founded Vista Global Coaching & Consulting in 2010, to align with her values of making a difference in the world. In 2012, Vista Global became the first certified B Corporation in the state of Wisconsin, affirming our commitment to positive change as a business.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook: