The third post in a series exploring Speech Acts – the foundations of speaking and listening to make meaningful action possible.
If you want to get up to something meaningful and productive with other people, the first conversation you’re going to need is a conversation for relationship.
In this conversation we’re discovering the basis for our collaboration.
What we’re trying to establish, at minimum, is some sense of shared interest from which action can arise. A deeper, more powerful basis for relationship is shared concern about some issue or topic. And discovering shared commitment is more powerful still.
Finding that we are all interested in technology might give a loose basis for some future collaboration. Finding that we are concerned in particularly about energy efficiency would provide a more focused set of possibilities. But it’s only when we discover a shared commitment, such as a desire to produce a high-performance electric car to go to market next January, that we immediately open clear possibilities for focused coordinated action.
And all of that can only be accomplished by taking the time to talk.
Conversations for relationship require us to slow down, to do our best to understand one another, to suspend judgement, to get curious, and to listen – deeply. We allow our own world to be touched, opened, by the world of other people. Done well, we give our aspirations wings – the trust of others, the shared sense of being up to something that matters.
Perhaps you can immediately see the difficulties that arise if we dive into action without having this conversation. Yet it happens all the time. We declare ourselves ‘a team’ and think that will do the trick, when we haven’t even figured out whether we care about anything in common. And then we wonder why our experience of working together feels so listless and confusing. Or, because we can’t tolerate or talk about our feelings of anxiety and urgency we start to do things before we even know why we’re doing them, with all too predictable consequences.
In the world of organisations at the moment the pressure to move quickly away from conversations for relationship seems to be growing, as far as I can tell. It’s like leaving out the foundations because you’re in a hurry to get the house up.
We all know how that turns out.
You can read more on ‘Speech Acts’ – conversations, requests and promises – here.