Archive for the ‘Conversation’ Tag

Get the Facts   Leave a comment

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This week I was reminded of the great importance to get the facts and not operate on what a third-party might share.  It is amazing how many pieces of misinformation or misunderstanding can exist.  I had been told that a person had a negative perception of a training component.  Because of this information, I was concerned about some training that was being sought for a group.  However, when I was able to take the time to discuss the matter with the individual whom I had been told had a negative perception, I found out that this was not the case.  Instead, the individual had some reservations about the delivery method and some pieces of the training but felt positive towards the concepts overall.

A few days prior to this particular event, I was part of a small group discussion regarding the needs and desires of members in a level of an organization.  I had some concerns about where this discussion might go and had an assumption that these members would want the organization to provide services and resources that it had provided in the past.  Again, I was surprised to find that the thoughts of this small group were aligned with the new direction in which the leadership was feeling guided to take the organization.

In both of these situations, I was reminded of the importance of conversation.  Having the opportunity to have discussion with the individual and the small group allowed me to clear up misperceptions.  Listening to the primary people involved brought clarity to both situations.  These conversations were also greatly appreciated by these individuals because the dialogue allowed them to connect with the direction the leadership seemed to be leading.  There was also the opportunity for me to express the philosophy behind the decisions and actions which are being taken.

So my continual learning and relearning in these events has reminded me of the importance to get the facts, or the perceptions, directly from the ones who are involved instead of operating on third-party information or my own assumptions.


Conversation Catalyst   1 comment

Surface waves

Surface waves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night and this morning I was reminded of the value associated with conversation and dialogue.  I was one of thousands watching the live production of the Sound of Music last night on television.  While I was watching the production, I posted on my Facebook page that I was struggling with this production of a classic.  I indicated that in my opinion, this could not replace the movie version which I have watched at least annually since I can remember watching television.  That post ignited a stream of comments from friends throughout the rest of the night and even this morning.  There were those who expressed their struggles and dislikes.  There were also those that spoke in support of the production and raised reminders of the unfairness to compare these very different productions.  As I stepped back from the various opinions, I became aware of the great value of this dialogue.  What emerged was an opportunity to express opinions, share memories, express feelings, educate, and most importantly, engage with one another.

This led me this morning to ponder how one little post on a Facebook page could ignite a beneficial conversation.  As a leader, I have come to realize the role that leaders play in beginning conversations.  In fact, I believe that this is one of the top five responsibilities in being a leader.  There definitely is a risk involved because if you open a conversation, you have no idea where for sure that conversation may head.  However, there is a lot that can be discovered and growth can take place if a dialogue is established.

Another realization that I had is that you do not always know what might spark a conversation.  I would have to be honest that I did not anticipate that my post last night would create the conversation that has occurred since I did the posting.  The catalyst can be something very small and spontaneous in nature or it can be something planned to initiate dialogue around a subject, challenge, or event.  It can be somewhat liking casting a stone in the water which create circles of discussion.  Sometimes you may need to cast multiple stones and at other times it will take only one.  The caution is to avoid throwing in boulders.

The final observation that I had this morning is that there is a role the leader must play after creating a catalyst for conversation.  The role would be one of moderator.  It will be important for the leader to make sure that the dialogue that occurs after the conversation ignites is one of a positive nature and not one that tears individuals or the group down.  A positive conversation is not void of critical observations.  However, the leader needs to strive to create an environment where the dialogue will not be derogatory toward a person or the person’s ideas/thoughts.

Who would have thought that the Sound of Music could lead me to think about such matters?


Person to Person   Leave a comment


Detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a fabulous conversation with a friend over coffee this morning.  We were discussing the situation in Syria and all the elements involved in it.  During the conversation, I stated that often we have conflict because people do not have knowledge into the background of a person or a group of people.  We do not understand what has occurred over time that cause the individual or individuals to respond and act in manner which we see.  My friend asked how we might get a handle on this and we came to the agreement that it takes person to person conversation.

Since that discussion, I have been thinking a lot about various situations where person to person contact would create a different dynamic.  There are some key points to keep in mind as conversations happen:

  1. You need to listen as well as you talk.
  2. You need to go into the conversation wanting to learn.
  3. You need to realize that you may still disagree but you will have a much different understanding regarding why.
  4. You need to not prepare to prove them wrong.
  5. You need to not have a goal of changing them.
  6. You need to remove labels and view the person as a person.
  7. You need to be willing to open yourself to them and that goes beyond just words.
  8. You need to remain in conversation and not arguments.
  9. You need to reflect on the conversation afterwards.

I am convinced that this is a vital to making a difference in how to deal with conflicts.  Maybe if more individuals practiced this approach, we would live in a much different world.

Open Door   Leave a comment

Open Door Policy

Open Door Policy (Photo credit: lyricsboy)

Many leaders and managers tell people that they have an “open door policy“.  The intention of making this statement is to present the idea that if someone needs to come to discuss an issue, they are more than welcome to stop by the leader’s/manager’s office at any time.  While I believe that many individuals truly mean to operate in such a manner, it is not always a reality.

As a leader, I have been recently reminded of the importance to make every effort to be able to respond to an individual when they need to talk.  Sometimes the timing of things makes it very difficult to be available but it comes down to the philosophy that a person uses in their leadership.  Now, I know and experience that there are times when it is absolutely impossible to sit down and have a conversation at the exact time another person indicates the need.  However, if at all possible a leader should rearrange her/his time to make it a reality.  If it truly is not possible, I think it is important that the leader tells the other person why it is not possible and establish a time to have the conversation as soon as it can be possible.  Most people will be understanding if an explanation is given and an alternative time is agreed upon.

The reason that I believe this is so important is a reality that I learned a very long time ago, people and relationships are really what life is all about.  This reality propels me to place people and relationships high on my list of priorities.  I have experienced that when someone approaches me to sit down and talk about a matter and I take the time to do that, the time spent with the individual produces great rewards for me personally and benefits those I am striving to lead in a very positive way.  I have never regretted when I have taken the time to sit down and be in conversation with an individual.  I have regretted the times that I have let the opportunity pass by.  Yes, it may mean that I have to stay at the office later.  Yes, it may mean that I have to apologize to someone else for being late on a commitment.  Yes, it may mean that I have a little more stress in my day trying to meet the commitments of the day.  But in the total picture, I have seen it is the right thing to do.

As a believer, I have come to realize that the Lord gives me many opportunities to be a witness for the Lord through my life.  I believe that one of the greatest ways I can demonstrate what the Lord is about is by keeping my door open to the conversations that can occur in my day.  So when someone contacts me and asks to have a conversation, either by a message on social media, a phone call, or just dropping by my office, I do everything in my power to accommodate that conversation.  If I am not able to do so right at that moment, I make sure that I schedule a time for the conversation to happen sooner rather than later because I have no idea what the Lord might want to accomplish in that conversation.

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Being Available

Being Available   6 comments

People engaging in casual conversation on a si...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the last couple of days, I have once again been reminded of the importance of believers being available to the Holy Spirit.  There have been multiple situations lately when I have been engaged in a conversation that led to some discussion of faith.  The key for me in these situations has been to make sure that I was available for whatever the work the Holy Spirit chose to do through me.  I must admit that I am not very conscious of making myself available.  However, every morning during my early morning prayers, I ask the Lord to work through me in whatever way would benefit others.  I think that is a vital step in being available.

The other vital step is to be engaged with people.  This requires a person to intentionally place time into his/her day where they interact with people outside a normal work environment.  Those people with whom I interact may be connected to my work or they may not.  That is one of the reasons that I find going to the coffee shop to be an important part of my work day.  I come into the office and work for about thirty minutes before heading to the coffee shop where I spend some time.  There are many times that conversations occur during and after this period of my day which lead to some faith discussions.  If I didn’t make time to be in that location, then those conversations probably would not happen.

This concept is very important for all believers.  Many times people feel that Christians sit in an ivory tower and proclaim judgments on the world.  Christians are accused of not engaging with the world.  Some Christians are accused of keeping their lives segmented; faith inside the church walls, “regular” life outside the church walls.  These are stereotypes and judgments placed on believers, sometimes unfairly, that can easily be reduced if believers were more open and available for the Spirit to work through them in all aspects of their day.

My challenge to myself and each of you is to BE AVAILABLE.

Disconnected   Leave a comment

In the days when everyone had land lines for phones, you would occasionally run into situations where a phone was disconnected.  Remember the message that you would get?  “This number is disconnected or no longer in service.  If you feel you have reached this message in error, please hang up, check the number, and dial again.”  Today with many people using cell phones, we run into the issue of “dropped calls.”  This seems to occur when you hit one of those cellular signal dead zones.

These things are on my mind because I have been thinking about what happens when for whatever reason, the conversation ends.  I feel that when individuals consciously or unconsciously stop communicating, there is a strong possibility that the relationship is doomed.  This can happen for a variety of reasons and in all types of relationships.  As I have observed individuals and groups, I find this to be a fact that plays out itself over and over.  Even when the dialogue becomes heated and disagreement is clear, if the dialogue continues, the relationship(s) continue(s).

For me, this reminds me of the importance to keep the dialogue open.  It also reminds me of the importance of learning how to keep a conversation going even when there is strong disagreement between the parties involved.

As I watch many situations in my profession, in the community in which I live, in our nation, I am reminded of the great importance to promote civil discourse.  It is becoming vital that voices speak out and that we raise the expectation of encouraging individuals to remain in conversation with one another.

This is also true in my faith life.  I have to remain in conversation with the Lord on a daily basis if I am going to expect my relationship with the Lord to continue to thrive.  I have to remain in conversation with fellow believers since in those conversations I am challenged and encouraged.  If I truly believe that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord, my God, and the second greatest is to love my neighbor as myself, then I must be committed to maintaining relationships with my Lord and my fellow believers.  If I am committed to maintaining those relationships, then I must be committed to remaining in dialogue with them.

When communication ends, relationships end.

Unplugged Doesn’t Work   Leave a comment

Today I have been pondering some recent discussions.  I have been thinking about the importance to be plugged into the conversations around us.  Over the last decade or so, I believe that people have had a tendency to unplug themselves from conversation.  I perceive that there are several reasons that this may seem inviting:

  1. There has been an increasing level of hostility in many public discussions.
  2. People in the work environment are increasingly engaged in discussions as collaboration and instant communication has become the norm, so outside of the work environment there is a desire to unplug.
  3. The speed of change in regards to information and community causes individuals to unplug in an effort not to appear stupid.

I admit that these are only a few reasons and the list is definitely not all-inclusive, but no matter the number of reasons, I have observed a desire on some individual’s parts to unplug from conversations around them.

At the same time, I have observed others becoming more actively engaged in conversations.  This seems such a counter to what I had just been stating but I think that is what is unique about this time.  I feel that there are three different groups of people who I observe; those who unplugging from conversations, those who are ramping up conversations, and those who are indifferent to conversations.

I say all of this to make a point.  I feel it is extremely vital for leaders, and especially church leaders, to become plugged into the discourse happening all around us.  Being unplugged is the equivalent of burying our heads in the sand.  The conversations are going to continue around us whether we are actively involved in them or not.  As a leader, I need to listen to those conversations (the first and most important step) and then I need to engage in those conversations.  The Church needs to have a voice (non-judgmental) in the conversations.  The only reason that the Church does not have a voice is because too often it has chosen to unplug rather than engage. Too often the Church has isolated instead of diving in.

People are not looking to have experts.  People are not looking to be lectured.  There no longer exists a desire to sit at the feet of some guru as she/he expounds great knowledge.  Instead, people are seeking discussion.  People want to share ideas back and forth.  People want to grow by listening and being listened to.  This requires leaders and individuals to be plugged into the conversations.

Any institution or group that chooses to remain unplugged is going to be like an unplugged refrigerator.  If you unplug your refrigerator, it cannot cool anything inside and even the little light bulb will not come on.  The result is a rotting of the food inside and when the door is opened nothing but dark space exists.  When that door opens, the smell of that rotten food comes out and the person quickly shuts the door and vows never to open it again without some sort of protection.

I don’t feel that I am very different from a  lot of individuals.  You do not have to agree with me or my views.  I do not have to agree with you or your views.  However, I do desire for us to be in conversation with one another.  I want you to listen to me and I want to listen to you.  Who knows, we may find a lot more to agree upon than to disagree upon.

So plug-in.  Encourage others to plug-in also.  Only then can our voice be heard and can we hear the voices of others.