Conversational Intelligence

Paul Speaker is the CEO of the World Surf League, the governing body of professional surfing – pretty cool job if you like athletics and beaches.

Recently I read an interview in which he offered this piece of advice…

“Showing up is really important: for family, for negotiations, for difficult conversations.”

He’s right – especially when it comes to conversations. Too many people aren’t willing to engage in difficult conversations. That’s the point of books like Crucial Conversations and Fierce Conversations. Conversations, especially the tough ones, are how things get done. If you want to succeed, you have to be willing to engage in tough conversations.

Judith Glaser is my friend, the President and Founder of the Creating WE Institute, and the author of the best book on conversations that I’ve read: Conversational Intelligence. In the book, Judith suggests that there are three levels of conversation: Transactional, Positional and Transformational.

Transactional conversations are about information exchange – telling and asking, sharing ideas. Positional conversations are about influence – bringing others to our point of view, inquiring and advocating. Transformational conversations are about exchanging energy, co-creating and transforming ideas and outcomes, sharing and discovering.

Judith argues that transformational conversations help both parties develop broader insights and wisdom than either brings to the conversation. “We ask questions to which we have no answers, inviting others to join with us to co-create answers and solutions.”

When you engage in transformational conversations you interact with others with high levels of openness, candor, curiosity and wonder. You stimulate provocative questions that enable you to partner with others and elevate both of your thinking. In short, transformational conversations can help you to get from 1 + 1 = 2, to 1 + 1 = 3.

But, in order to engage in transformational conversations you have to show up. Transactional conversations require that you be present intellectually. Positional conversations require that you be present as emotionally. Transformational conversations require that you be present intellectually as well as emotionally.

This can be a little scary. Entering into a conversation in which you are not just exchanging information, or advocating for your point of view – but one in which you are working with another person to create something that is more than either of you brings to the conversation in the first place.

Transformational conversations are where real progress happens. They can be scary at first, but once you become willing to show up and engage in them, you’ll find out just how powerful they are.

Your career mentor,

PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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