The One Thing You Need For Productive Conversations

What is the one thing you need for productive conversations? Humility.

Yep. I’m giving it to you right out of the gate. In an age where people talk “at” each other instead of “to” each other, productive conversations are sabotaged on the altar of ego, fear, agenda, and/or emotional immaturity. Humility is a key anecdote.

But we need to explore a few concepts and define humility to know how to use humility.

First, what is a productive conversation? Simply, a productive conversation occurs when two people communicate in such a way that both people feel heard and validated. Keep in mind, the people do not have to agree with each other. They just need to feel heard and validated. When both people are heard and validated, defensiveness diminishes. We are then able to move the conversation towards a common interest, goal, value, need, etc. When this occurs, we call it a productive conversation.

Second, both people must enter the conversation with humility. Yes...I typed “both people.” The person who does not enter the conversation with humility will sabotage the conversation.

Third, we must know what humility is. Researchers define humility as three core aspects:

  1. Having an appropriate view of yourself, not too high (e.g., pride and conceit) but not too low (false humility).
  2. Being teachable
  3. Being considerate of others

When we approach others with humility, we open ourselves up to hearing their perspectives. We can validate their experiences. We do not have to agree with the person. We are not required to give up our convictions either. Instead, we listen to hear the other and validate the person. This allows us to search for common ground. And this fosters productive conversations.

So how do we take a step towards productive conversations?

  • You and I must take responsibility for entering conversations with humility.
  • Determine to listen to understand the person with whom you are talking, rather than listen to respond.
  • Ask clarifying questions if you do not understand or find you disagree.
  • Ask the person, “Do you get the sense that I am understanding you?”

See how it works with someone who disagrees with you on an issue. Here’s to productive conversations!