“Conversational Intelligence” Is More Than What You Say

Have you ever had one of those important workplace conversations with someone, where you seem to come from completely different planets? You try so hard to get your message through to them and they are trying to do the same thing to you!

Improving your Conversational Intelligence levels can transform the culture of your workplace. It will help coach employees, improve productivity and employee engagement.

What is Conversational Intelligence?

Most people are aware of Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Many have a good understanding of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) is underpinned by neuroscience. C-IQ builds on the self-awareness and self-regulation skills of Emotional Intelligence. It focuses on the impact of our conversations with others.

C-IQ is all about building quality relationships. Judith E. Glaser defines Conversational Intelligence as “a hardwired and learnable ability to connect, navigate and grow with others.” It starts with building on levels of trust created and ends with high quality interactions and conversations.

In many ways, C-IQ is common sense. Some of the information it presents you may have already heard. But have you understood its significance to our daily lives?

No matter how skilled we are in the connecting with our colleagues, there is always room to improve. C-IQ provides us with a greater understanding why we behave the way we do. It also demonstrates how being curious and asking powerful questions is so effective. C-IQ particularly provides significant evidence to support the coaching process.

My 3 Favourite C-IQ Principles (and there are many more to discover)

1. We Don’t Think Clearly When we are Triggered (even if we think we do!)

When we feel threatened or pressured in some way, it is our natural default response to fight, freeze, run, appease and often to distrust.

Distrust sits at the basis of just about all workplace conflict. Relationships cannot thrive without trust. High quality cultures are made up of quality relationships and that is why we need to have quality conversations to build trust.

Do you always know when a colleague you are speaking to feels threatened? Whilst we can be pretty good at sensing this, sometimes it can be very subtle or people can be very good at hiding their feelings. We cannot read minds and we will never be sure of the impact a message may have had on another person unless we ask!

It may be that sometimes we are not even aware when we are triggered ourselves. Have you ever caught yourself behaving in a meeting in a way that leaves you feeling ashamed? The neurochemistry in our brains impacts our unconscious (and conscious) behaviour. If we go about our day without conscious awareness, we could be inadvertently destroying trust. Then we wonder why things were not going according to our plan!

When we are triggered we cannot use our thinking brains to make well considered decisions. (And neither can others!) We need to take the time to avoid jumping to conclusions. We also may need to calm down and gather more information.

One of my all-time favourite mantras goes something like this…“When you get triggered, get curious!”

I have found that the best approach to coaching leadership and relationships, is to bring a mindset of curiosity to our interactions. First become a curious observer of yourself and your own reactions and then the behaviour and reactions of your team and colleagues.

Conversational Intelligence brings reflection and awareness to our interactions. It helps us to become clear about the behaviours that either build or destroy trust.

2. The Way We See the World is Unique

Human beings are meaning making machines; we are hardwired to judge every situation and person to ensure that we “stay safe”. This means that we take meaning out of anything and everything that comes our way. It is not wrong to make meaning, that part is instinctive. What is not always helpful, is our propensity to think that our own meaning is “the real” or right meaning.

The understanding that C-IQ brings can act as an antidote to this phenomena. This is the gift it can bring to those who strive to embody the C-IQ teaching. C-IQ has reinforced for me, the importance of remembering that we see the world from our own unique lens.

Yet again the answer is to get curious, to ask questions. This helps to better understand another’s perspective of the world. By taking the time to really stand in a colleagues shoes, we begin to appreciate the difference and celebrate the broader perspective it can bring to our lives.

3. We Can Change!

One of the most interesting neuroscience insights for me relates to “behavioural epigenetics”. Research shows that your environment and your life experience can actually modify your DNA. These changes can even be passed down through generations.

I have heard so many people say “I can’t help the way I am” or “s/he can’t help being their grumpy old self”. It is possible for people to change given the right environment and experience. Toxic work environments groom toxic individuals, while positive environments breed positivity.

We all play a role in each other’s behaviours. People often live up to our expectations. This is because we tend to treat them according to this judgement. A good example of this is when coaching an individual to bring about a change in their behavior. One of the challenges I find as a coach is the challenge of putting a changed individual back into an unchanged environment. How are they supposed to sustain the change?

What I am saying is that we are all responsible for each other’s learning and growing. When we take this responsibility seriously, over time people can change the “way we are”.

Can you relate to any of these?

Here are some reflective questions for you to ponder….

  • How aware are you of your triggers and reactions?
  • Are you always sure about the impact your messages have on others?
  • Are you ever surprised when people don’t react in the same way as you?
  • Have you successfully supported someone to believe in themselves just because you held that space for them to achieve?
  • I would love to hear you thoughts on any of these!

If you need help applying with a toxic workplace culture, I can help. My experience as an Occupational Therapist with a passion for behavioural psychology brings a unique insight to any workplace. If your staff aren’t talking to each other or bicker constantly, get in touch to find out more about a program to suit you and your team here.

Hi there! I’m Jacqui Snider and I’m here to help you and your business grow and flourish.

As an Occupational Therapist and Workplace Culture Coach and Trainer, I am passionate about helping individuals and organisations develop better home and workplace practices that everyone enjoys being part of. With more than 35 years of coaching experience, I have personally coached and trained in excess of 350 leaders, bringing about transformational change in both individuals and teams.

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