Why 9 out of 10 Conversations Fall Short (and what to do about it)

"Why 9 Out Of 10 Conversations Fall Short (and what to do about it)" by Amy Eliza Wong, Life Coach in Sacramento and San Francisco, CA

According to The Creating WE Institute, 35 years of research tells us that most of our conversations are missing the mark and falling short.  Not encouraging, right?  What does “falling short” even mean?

Something I’ve always been fascinated with is how some people can be incredibly sensitive to how their words and actions impact others and how some people are completely blind to the fact that they even have an effect at all.

Insert the emoji.

It’s really easy to misinterpret a text – the subtle cues of tone and body language are absent so we often misread the message. Faces and images help convey our intention and mind our impact without the immediate feedback we’d get in live conversation. I joke that my husband and I are on two different planets when it comes to texting; his style is almost entirely robotic, while I’m a definite over-user of sparkly things and really happy faces. (To be clear, it takes quite a few symbols and smiles to transmit just the right flavor of enthusiasm via text.:)

Emojis aside, what I’m ultimately talking about here is the connection between our intention and impact and how this either helps or hinders our ultimate success. Success, meaning our ability to connect with others, create solid trust, and co-create everything from laughter and happiness to brilliant solutions to complex problems in the world. When we’re not “successful,” it’s because we often fail to make that connection.

According to Judith E. Glaser, founder of Conversational Intelligence®, if this intention/impact connection is healthy then we’re creating a stable foundation of trust. In solid trust, we operate more from our Prefrontal Cortex, giving us access to higher levels of connection, empathy, insight, creativity, and ingenuity. Read: success.

Conversely, in a state of distrust we operate from fear, and with a limited perspective we look more for what’s wrong and “protect” ourselves rather than create. If we want to be successful in our conversations then we need to mind the intention/impact connection.

What’s the connection between intention and impact?

First, it’s the recognition there’s an intention behind every interaction we have. That intention could range from proving a point to taking a breather. We’re rarely interacting with anyone without an intention running in the background.

Second, it’s the intent to successfully meet our objective but also be responsible for how our words land with the other. We’re ultimately successful if we link the impact our words and actions have against our intention, AND the receiver sees that we’re aware, accountable, and working to stay in their good graces.

So how do we help create stronger bonds of trust with others so that our conversations are ultimately successful? How do we mind this intention/impact connection?

We own it.

We own our intention. We own our impact. We check in, recalibrate, and make amends when necessary. We deliver on the intention and care just as much that the relationship stays intact as much as the intention is met. We’re human, we’re going to occasionally step on toes and make mistakes. If we own our impact and adjust real-time we keep trust strong because we’re connecting on the objective and bonding in our humanity.

Case in point – I was in session the other day with a client delivering some pretty raw feedback in a pretty strong way. My intention was not to be right or to prove a point, it was to facilitate the discovery of blindspots and new perspectives to catalyze movement. As I delivered the message, I was acutely aware of my client’s receptivity and ability to hear it in the way I was intending. In the middle of a sentence I stopped short, “How is this sitting with you? I don’t want to lose you and as I watch your facial expressions, I’m afraid I may be evoking defensiveness, which is the exact opposite of what I’m intending. I’m being firm because I so believe in you and what’s possible.”

His body language shifted completely and his eyes opened really wide, “Oh wow. Thank you for checking. I’m realizing I need to hear this badly and probably in just this way. But you checking in with me makes me feel really grounded, thank you.”

As a result, our conversation then went to deeper levels because I deliberately solidified an environment of safety and connection. And this was born out of minding my impact against my intention and him experiencing my accountability of this awareness.

What we say, don’t say, and HOW we say anything at all has an impact. When we can keep people open and out of defensive mode, SO MUCH MORE IS POSSIBLE! Does your conversational style either open people up or shut them down? Do your statements, questions, requests, and demands elicit exactly the result you’re intending, or are they falling short?

Talk to me about any insights this concept has evoked for you. For the next few weeks, take note of the impact you may be having and map it back to your intention. Leave me a comment and tell me how you’re either killing it or killing the opportunity. Next article, I’ll detail some tips and practices to convert those missed targets to transformational interactions. And feel free to reach out to me directly if you’d like me to consider any specific examples, would love to hear from you!

With love (and 20 different happy emojis:)

Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in Sacramento and San Francisco, CA committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.

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