Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The power of conversations as a leverage for change

A coaching client of mine wanted to explore why he had been unsuccessful in a recent selection process he had been through for a position he was well qualified to do.

In exploring why he had been unsuccessful I invited him to use a process of ‘observing himself’ so he could look back on himself and notice how he had been prior and during the interview. This observing self is a process of second order learning. I deliberately asked him to explore what were his private conversations (the conversations you have with yourself in your head). What he noticed was how, prior to the interview he had shifted from saying “I am able to do this job, I have lots to offer”, to “my lack of background in this area is going to be a big barrier; I won’t be able to convince them”. He said as the time got closer to the interview he tended to focus on his limitations rather than his strengths. At the interview he described how the five panel members kept asking him things that he considered basic. He used the analogy of them taking him down a path which was in the opposite direction to where he wanted to go. He realised he did not lead the conversation or use a range of approaches within the conversation to articulated his strengths. Some of the key issues he talked about were how he had not claimed the space at the interview, how he had not sought to understand how the five panel members had interpreted what he said. In hindsight, he realised the opportunity for shared understanding through conversations did not occur. 

I then invited him to explore how his mood and emotions were prior and during the interview. He noted again that he shifted from being exited to being anxious – he mainly felt anxious. I then asked him what he noticed about his physiology – his body. Interestingly he said he didn’t notice his body at all. The way he participated in the interview conversations was shaped by his ‘way of being’. His ‘way of being’ is made up of his language, emotions and moods and physiology/body.

What emerged, is how he had a particular ‘way of being’ prior and during the interview, that meant he was not at his resourceful best. My interpretation was how he participated in the interview conversations (his conversational behaviour) was instrumental to his current suffering. So we explored how he intended to shift his ‘way of being’ so he could have different conversations with the five panel members that would enable him to achieve the results he sought.
The following offers an ontological interpretation from Sieler, who says ‘way of being’ shapes conversational behaviour, diagrammatically, this is shown as:

Extending the above diagram gives us the key ingredients of this model.

In this ‘chain of determinants’, ‘way of being’ shapes conversational behaviour, which impacts on outcomes. By extending this model further to allow the interplay that can happen between results, behaviour and ‘way of being’ we can see how the power of conversations are the leverage for change.

The word conversation is derived from Latin, which was ‘conversare’. Con means ‘with’ and ‘versare’ means ‘to turn’. So conversation means to turn with or turn together. When you observe your ‘way of being’ and make slight shifts to be able to converse with another person, you change the way you participate in conversations, you participate in shifting your existence. For a conversation on how to use conversations as levers for change contact

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