How to Have a Healthy Conversation

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

With the well-warranted nationHealthy Conversational conversation on good health, it’s time we talk about another area where health is important – our own conversations.

  • We’ve got obesity on the national scale and bloated conversations in the workplace.
  • We’ve got fillers in our food and fillers in our conversations.
  • We seek workarounds to what we know contributes to good health (exercise, anyone?) like we seek shortcuts when we converse and omit details required for accomplishing good work.
  • We avoid what might not taste good but could be good for us like we avoid tough conversations that might not feel good but are good for us.

How can we have healthier conversations?

1.Do you believe people are in the cars on the way to or from work right now plotting your conversational demise?  They are waiting for you to say the wrong thing so they can jump down your throat, correct you in front of others or make fun of your word choice?  I gather there may indeed be people who choose those behaviors, but they are just one part of a diverse population.  I call them “mean” and if you listen to Taylor Swift, I‘d say she agrees!  Let’s not give them our power. They are a possibility, not a probability. Let’s start with the premise that people do genuinely want to connect.  People are not trying to be difficult, they are trying to understand.

2. Get centered and be on point. Dr. Stephen Covey’s timeless wisdom in habit two belongs here. Begin with the end in mind™.  What’s the purpose of our conversation?  What are we opening our mouths for?  Is it to seek validation? To offer a different opinion?  To make a point?  If it has no point, perhaps we should warn people what we are processing out loud! Then they can decide if they want to stick around and hear our brains work it out.  Remove those filler statements, too. “Umm, you know what I mean.” They stop us from having efficient conversations.

3. Commit to learn from whomever we are conversing with. That’s right. Listen for the lesson.  That means we respect and value differences because that gives conversation meaning. It also means they even if we have spoken to this person countless times in the past, we look for what’s different and not ASSUME we know what they will say. Arrogant of us to believe, even if we have seen patterns in the past, that we know what they will say next.  Thinking we know what people are going to say is just one block to better listening. We rehearse, daydream, judge, derail, compare, advise, fix, one-up, interrupt and debate, too!


Click to read more from Sherri about how we can have healthier conversations on ManagingAmericans.

Sherri Petro, President and Chief Strategy Officer of VPI Strategies, represents VPI Strategies on the Expert Panel for Managing Americans. is a management blog with more than 300,000 monthly readers. Sherri contributes monthly to the Workplace Communication Skills Blog and is one of the most highly read columnists.

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