Why We Need Conversational Intelligence

Why We Need Conversational IntelligenceSponsored by the Creating WE Institute

Editor’s note: Since this feature first appeared, we hosted a Books as Tools web chat with Judith E. Glaser and our global community. To hear Judith speak in-depth about her work, and new book Conversational Intelligence, click here.

I have two questions for our readers for which I do not have the answer. First: How satisfied are you with the overall quality of conversations you have? Second: What can you do to make your conversations more productive?  And a third bonus question – does this sound at all familiar:

  • 9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark
  • We talk past each other
  • We talk over each other
  • We trigger each other
  • Then we stop listening

Why?  The answer may be shown in this encounter: as I worked in my back yard yesterday, a garden snake slithered out beneath my feet.  In principle, I like snakes, but in less than a nanosecond, my nervous system leapt into the air, and ran screaming, bringing me with it.  That snake wasn’t trying to trigger me, but he (or she) did. I don’t know about you, but conversations often take on that quality of nerve-ending, gut tweaking SURPRISE. As for conversations that truly matter?  I think I’ve found an alternative response to the work-world version of snakes slithering in the grass and triggering the  #$*!$# out of us.

Why We Need Conversational IntelligenceWe are excited about bringing Conversational Intelligence, Judith’s newest book, and culminating body of decades of work in the C-Suite and research labs, to the world.  While its lessons are universal, we are especially pleased to share it with innovation practitioners – it’s our newest addition to our Books as Tools family of killer books – a small yet growing body of work we believe has the catalytic ability to be used for good, not just read. To join Judith in a live conversation on Sept. 26th, register here.

Because, we know that innovation is one part imagination, and two parts enrolling; that collaboration, innovation’s most profound verb and the key to creating new stuff, is one part getting the right people in the room or online, and much more about creating an environment where ideas can really be heard and built upon, or said another way, developed in a climate of trust, where it’s less about being right, and more about producing the best results.

Because we know, that actually launching something new in the world or transforming anything, is by definition, an exercise in mind-shifts, and that those are usually, naturally because we’re human and hard-wired, accompanied by fear and frustration, balanced only by commitment and need.

Remember when Emotional Intelligence (EQ) popped into our collective consciousness?  It took Daniel Goleman drawing that distinction to confirm for us what we already, intuitively and it turns out, emotionally, knew: that we make decisions instantaneously first emotionally, then rationally.  That we read people and situations, develop trust, make life-altering decisions like where to work and live, whom to love, using a form of native intelligence we only knew tacitly, silently.  That might have been OK, unless we wanted to summon our EQ and apply it at will to solve problems.

Here comes Judith E. Glaser, her lifetime research and her offer to be our guide in the adventure called developing Conversational Intelligence.  Depending on the day, you can either view it as an owner’s manual for building trust, or perhaps, the best therapy you can get on Amazon.

So What Exactly Is Conversational Intelligence?

It is a deeper understanding that conversations are not only the exchange of information.

  • They are multi-dimensional experiences…
  • They have:

–     Space

–     Time

–     Dimensions

–     Influence Ripples

–     Conversations keep us connected with others and enable us to successfully navigate our ‘inner and outer’ realities together.

  • Conversations activate our next generation DNA

DeMille on Glaser

“The crux of Conversational Intelligence is knowing that the words we use, and how we use them, have a direct impact on the brain neurochemistry of the people who hear what we say. This is real power, and those who understand the incredible influence of words are able to use them more effectively to lead, sway, and impact other people.”

Are there Cliff Notes?

Yes.  There are always Cliff Notes.  These take the form of LAPS, and here they are:

L – Listen to Connect, Not Reject

A – Ask More Questions For Which You Have No Answers

P – Prime Conversations for Mutual Success

S – Sustained Conversational Agility; And we need to approach this as a long-distance sport in which we take multiple laps

How Will Conversational Intelligence Help You?

Understanding how using different words and communication styles impact the brain chemistry, aka, the hard-wiring and receptiveness of the people you work with, will help you build Conversational Agility, which Glaser describes as the ability to navigate at will, or toggle, between the three levels of Conversational Intelligence.

Conversational Agility is a secret power within your grasp.  It enables you to toggle at will between the three innate levels:

Level I – Confirming What We Know, Asking & Telling

Level II – Defending What We Know, Advocating & Inquiring

Level III – Discovering What We Know, Sharing & Discovering

Why We Need Conversational Intelligence

Level III is where the real rewards come in.  When you can toggle between, you can, at will:

  • Build trust
  • Overcome resistance
  • Get people to listen
  • Push back effectively
  • Catalyze new thoughts
  • Change people’s minds
  • Shift from I to WE
  • Activate energy, passion and accountability

In his review, Oliver DeMille, also said this about Glaser’s distinction of Level III: “This is the highest level of Conversational Intelligence, where a person understands how the brain and words work so well that he or she can use words with agility—to drastically empower, uplift, motivate, and serve people.”

Level III conversations enable moving:

1- from fear to Co-Creating

2- from power (and politics) to genuine Relationship Building

3- from uncertainty to Understanding

4- from a need to be right to Mapping Shared Success

5- from groupthink to Group Cohesion and Partnering

In closing, we think Conversational Intelligence has implications well beyond the boardroom.  To wit, Tom Friedman, in a New York Times editorial yesterday, said out loud what many people I know, me included, often feel:

“It’s easy to be depressed about America these days. We’ve got messes aplenty abroad and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives is totally paralyzed. Indeed, the G.O.P.- led House has become a small-minded, parochial place, where collaboration is considered treason…

Politics aside, it is clear that our current Congress isn’t up to the truly hard work of collaborating.  Just as far too many C-suites, and boards and leadership teams and working teams aren’t up to building the trust that is required for growth.

Fortunately, for our future, and our sense of what’s possible, Friedman provides the point-counterpoint argument:

There is another, still “exceptional,” American reality out there.

It’s best found at the research centers of any global American company. These centers are places where scientists and engineers from dozens of nationalities are using collaboration and crowd-sourcing to push out the boundaries of medical, manufacturing and material sciences.”

Our burning platform, aka the global economy, has rightfully emboldened leaders in Strategy, Marketing, R&D, Product Development, and Innovation, to take collaborative problem solving very seriously.  And at less publicized but equally adventurous places – that you know about like New York Yankees, the UN, the US Postal Service, to places that you might not know, like healthcare gem-in-action, Memorial Hospital in South Bend Indiana, the hunt for solutions has caused collaboration to go mainstream.  And it’s about time.  Again quoting Friedman as he describes what he sees in US R&D labs:

“Where possibilities seem infinite, where optimal is the norm and where every day begins by people asking: “What world are we living in, and how do we thrive in that world?”

Conversational Intelligence (thank you Judith Glaser) holds the keys to the HOW we can thrive – one trusting conversation at a time.

Want to learn more?

Join us on September 26 from 1-2 p.m. eastern for “A conversation with Judith E. Glaser”.  You can register here and also buy the book here.

Why We Need Conversational IntelligenceAbout Judith: Judith E. Glaser is the founder and Chairman of the Creating WE Institute. She was honored by Leadership Excellence 500 as one of 2012’s top 15 consultants, coaches

and organizational practitioners in the country known for their contribution to the development of leadership in organizations globally. Judith was ranked as the top woman in this category. She is the author of 3 bestselling books.

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Julie Anixter is a principal at Think Remarkable and the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. She also serves as Chief Innovation Officer of Maga Design, a leading visual information mapping firm.The co-author of three books, she’s working on a fourth on courage and innovation. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference.

Julie Anixter




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  1. Joan Holman on October 3, 2013 at 3:22 am

    Julie, thank you for this fabulous article and Judith thank you for your fabulous thought leadership about conversational intelligence.

  2. Judith E. Glaser on October 3, 2013 at 6:18 am

    This has been an incredible effort of people who believe that conversations transform history…. thank you both for your incredible support in growing our global awareness ….. Judith

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