Contact, Context, Content

7 Aug

All conversations are really about:

  • (how I feel inside)
  • We (how you and I relate)
  • It (the results we want, or the problem to solve)

(anyone wanting to think about that more can go to Ken Wilber’s book, “A Brief History of Everything” – an oldie but goodie, published over 20 years ago)

A lot of debate is spent on “where we are going” and thinking about “what we want to get (out of it).”  And when someone pushes, we push back.  Conflict and tension. “You are wrong,” we think (or, even worse, say). If “I” only see what I see, it’s impossible to explore the possibilities.   

You can’t micro-manage a two-way conversation, but you can control the process and therefore improve the outcome.  Here’s how to think about Contact, Context and Content:

  1. Listen.  Listen well.  It’s hard to listen to the other person fully, and not interrupt.  Really hard. Especially if they are interrupting you.  Shut up, and really listen.
  2. Enquire.  Ask questions: “What do you think?” “Why do you think that?” and “What would you like the result to be?”  Remember that others usually don’t say “stupid” things; there’s a reason behind it and you should know why.
  3. Summarize.  “Did I get what you’re saying correctly?” and “I think I heard you say…”
  4. Validate.  Acknowledge that what they say is reasonable.  “I can understand why you think …” and “That makes sense and …”
  5. Express your views.  Use safety in the “I.” It’s hard to argue with how you feel, or how you think.  It’s your opinion alone.
  6. Negotiate.  Explore the possible.  Look for the common ground.  Look for the trade-offs.
  7. Formalize.  Get specific about what is agreed.  Who, what, how and when.  Never end with a vague, hanging “I’m so happy we’re in agreement!” (about what?).
  8. Learn.  Think about where we ended up, and how we got there.  Try it differently next time.

So:  first make contact with yourself and with the other (what is wanted, and WHY), then explore the context(why), and then (finally) get to the content.  

“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” — Teddy Roosevelt

Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

www.LinkedIn.com/in/annamintowww.annaminto.com

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