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Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results

By Judith E. Glaser


While reading Judith’s book, what rang clear to me is that this book is not just for business leaders. Whether or not you’re in a leadership position, in or outside work, all conversations, would benefit from conversational intelligence. And what is conversational intelligence? It essentially boils down to the ability and willingness to stay open and non-judgmental, be influenced and to listen with an open mind. In this way, you can move your conversations from “power-over” others to “power-with” others, which will result in building a bridge between where you are and where you would like to be.


As Judith notes, “Conversations are the social rituals that hold us together. They impact the way we connect, engage and interact with others and everyday we have a choice about how we influence each other.” So maybe the title should’ve simply been: Conversational Intelligence: How to Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results?


Throughout the book, Judith describes the science and chemistry behind our conversations. According to her research, “Conversations are a source of energy and the moment we make contact with other people, biochemical reactions are triggered at every level of our bodies.”


Judith ends the book with a fascinating story about her father. She learned that her father had suffered from a severe stutter throughout his childhood. When she asked how he overcame it, he said it started with a conversation. A High School teacher asked him to be in the school play. Given his affliction, he said he obviously couldn’t. Then she said she would work with him to prove he could overcome it. He agreed and went on to perform without stuttering once. He gained so much confidence that his stuttering disappeared. The part in the play gave him a new identity - which allowed him to see himself as another way of being and shape a new identity in his mind. And it all started with a conversation.


Some take aways:

Conversations and Our Brains

~ As our bodies read a person’s energy, the process of connectivity begins

~ In terms of importance, we allocate 7% to words, 38% to tone of voice and 55% to nonverbal behaviors

~ Once we become distrustful, the notion becomes difficult to dislodge from our brain

~ Fear and conflict change our neural chemistry

~ When what we say, what we hear and what we mean are not in agreement, we make up stories ~ that help reconcile the discrepancies

Conversational Assumptions

~ There’s an assumption that others see what we see, feel what we feel and think what we think

~ We think we remember what others say, when what we remember is what we think about what others say

~ To feel whole we make up stories; in my story you are to blame; in your story I am to blame

~ We think we are talking to each other but we are really talking past each other

~ The meaning we give conversations, doesn’t reside in the speaker it resides in the listener

~ Seeing the possibility of failure in our mind’s eye becomes as real as experiencing failure

Work-related Conversations

~ Feedback handled well triggers growth and employees will trust your feedback in the future

~ The least developed skill is the ability to have uncomfortable conversations

~ Once we make up our minds about someone we set out to prove we are right

~ Ask what if questions to open the doors to new ways of thinking

~ Learn to work with others to see, shape and predict the future

~ Breakthroughs occur when we tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not

~ Visualizing fear and success with others makes the invisible visible

Leadership Conversations

~ Great leaders foster a climate and environment:

~ Of collaboration, inclusion and trust

~ That nurtures cooperative relationships

~ Helps employees see and embrace the future

~ That inspires creativity and innovation

~ Empowers people to challenge authority

~ Celebrates success

What Conversational Intelligence Means

~ Acknowledging that your truth may not be the only truth

~ Moving from I-centric to We-centric

~ Re-labeling uncomfortable conversations as opportunities to find out what’s on each other’s minds

~ Stepping into each other’s shoes to see the world from the other person’s perspective

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