What’s Your Conversational IQ?

Is there such a thing as conversational intelligence? It could be that some leaders are naturally more adept at the art of conversation. It’s certainly true that we all could improve our ability to engage and influence others through conversation.

Human beings are the most highly social species on this planet. When we succeed in connecting deeply with others heart to heart and head to head trust is at its all-time high, and people work in concert in extraordinary ways. ~ Judith E. Glaser, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion, Inc., 2013)

Recent discoveries show that conversation causes a rapid cascade of neurochemicals in the brain, laying the foundation for trust or distrust. Therefore, to remain competitive, leaders must understand the powerful conversational rituals that prime the brain for trust, partnership, and mutual success.

Conversations are more than just a vehicle for sharing information. As social beings, the words we use in our interactions trigger powerful physical and emotional responses. Our words can facilitate healthy, trusting conversations — or cause others to shut down with fear, caution, and worry.

When I am coaching, I always pay careful attention to how clients use language in conversations among themselves, with me, and in dialogue with others. By promoting shared understanding through conversations, you can unleash others’ full potential. As Glaser explains:

The premise of Conversational Intelligence is: To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. Everything happens through conversations!

5 Subconscious Questions

When we enter into a conversation, our minds toggle through a series of questions to determine the kind of engagement we’ll have with each other. Even before we open our mouths, we size up the other person to determine whether we can trust them. In a fraction of a second, you can sense whether you need to:

  1. Protect: Do I need to be on guard — and how?
  2. Connect: Can I trust this person?
  3. Belong: Where do I belong? Do I fit in?
  4. Be Strong: What do I need to be successful?
  5. Partner: How do I create value with others?

This process involves the brain’s primitive emotional centers and the neocortex, its seat of reason and judgment.

Bad conversations trigger our “distrust” network; good conversations trigger our “trust” network. This judgement influences what we say, as well as how and why we say it. Our trust and distrust networks shape each conversation’s outcome.

Recent brain research is revealing the processes we go through in our minds in the blink of an eye, similar to the premise of Malcolm Gladwell’s book by the same name (Blink).

Once you realize that you’re triggering those same five subconscious questions in the mind of the other person in the conversation, you become aware of the importance of smart conversations.

What do you think about when you’re having a conversation? I’d love to hear about what goes through your mind. Are you focused on what you’re saying and what you’re going to say? Or is your focus on the other person? Connect me here, or on LinkedIn and let me know.