Asking Questions Change Coaching Dialogue Learning

Change starts with a conversation

A fierce conversation is a conversation where both partners commit to being all-in the conversation.

I’m a certified facilitator in Fierce Conversations.

That’s not a joke.

If you thought it was, you’re probably wondering why something like training in conversations exists in the first place.

Well …

Because many of us do not know how to have a skillful conversation.

We don’t listen well.

We don’t articulate well.

We get easily distracted.

We don’t have time.

We like ourselves a lot. At least a little more than our conversation partner. Or vice versa.

We don’t see the conversation as a level playing field.

All reasons why most conversations are ineffective (outcome) and inefficient (process).

A fierce conversation is a conversation where both partners commit to being all-in the conversation.

They leave the hidden agendas behind, listen as much (or even more) as they speak, and exchange perspectives to find common ground.

They aim for win-win, Stephen Covey’s one of the seven habits of highly effective people.

As Covey describes it, “thinking Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration.”

Stephen Covey
You know it immediately when you’ve had a fierce conversation.

When this happens, both partners leave the conversation feeling energized about the progress made.

You’re excited about the outcome, happy about the direction, you feel challenged, and you know the other person is also challenged.

Respect is still at the highest level or likely has even grown. The conversation was creative and solution-oriented.

How many conversations did you leave last week feeling like this?

I’m not claiming that each conversation should be like this, but I’m also not claiming that you can go for weeks without such conversations.

These are the types of conversations where progress is made. These are the conversations that are critical to change.

Here are seven questions you may consider when engaging in a fierce or critical conversation, including a brief description of why they matter.

  1. What’s the most important topic we need to discuss? This separates the important from the trivial.

  2. What’s going on? Clarify the issue until it’s crystal clear. Begin to separate symptoms from root causes.

  3. How does this topic impact you or others? How does it impact outcomes? How does it make you feel?

  4. What if nothing changes? What’s at stake? How does that make you feel?

  5. How have you contributed to the current situation? Get role clear.

  6. Describe the ideal outcome. Focus on solutions.

  7. What’s the first step to achieving this outcome? Make sure the conversation results in action.

I suggest you try this in one of your next conversations.

Try to have the discipline to focus on the most critical topic given to you by your conversation partner.

Work your way through the list of questions, and don’t fall into the trap of getting side-trapped or start working down your list of topics.

Even if you disagree that this is the most important topic, you show the patience to complete the conversation.

Then, when time is still available, you can address (some of) your topics. But only then.

Successful change is a process.

And it starts with an energizing conversation.

Your turn: what’s a conversation you need to have?

Let me know.

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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