A great conversation is a powerful way to build relationships at work, at home, and in your community.

Great conversations happen when both parties have an equal opportunity to participate and to be heard. Remember, all humans desire to be seen and heard. It’s hardwired into our beings to engage with other beings and nothing satisfies that need nearly as well as conversation.

We’ve been asked over the years by our executive coaching clients to describe for them the ingredients of a good conversation. While the content of each conversation is different, there are 3 ingredients contained in every good conversation: transparency, intentionality, and an open mind

Transparency. When you are transparent you are not hiding anything of importance from the other person. You speak and own your truth. You provide relevant facts to support any points you make and you listen to counter points respectfully. This doesn’t mean you minimize your own reaction—if you are being transparent you can say things like, “Ouch—that statement hurts” because it’s your truth. Your truth is just your truth; you don’t have to defend it. At the same time, lashing out at someone with your truth will diminish the conversation. Considering how you voice your truth is important if you want to be heard.

Intentionality. When you are intentional in a conversation you are focused on the conversation and the conversation alone. You limit distractions and you give the person you are speaking with your clear attention and your best thinking. Internal distractions are just as bad as external distractions. For instance, if you are hungry or sleepy it is probably not the best time to have a meaningful conversation. If you can’t focus on the conversation it is better to delay the conversation than to create a bad experience.

An open mind. Conversations succeed when both members are open minded and willing to follow the conversation wherever it goes. Too often people go into a conversation with a set outcome in mind that actually prevents a real conversation from happening. Yes, you may have a desired outcome but a good conversation will explore all kinds of outcomes. A set outcome limits options—including the option to land on an outcome far better than you originally imagined. 

As you go about your week, we invite you to think about your conversations and see if you can approach each one with transparency, intentionality, and an open mind.