"I'm afraid the senior managers in my organisation have got no interest in conversation. They see it as far too soft."
How many times have I heard that comment or something similar? Far too often, I am sorry to say.
I have a different perspective. Paradoxically, I think conversation isn't soft; I believe that it's extremely hard.
It is hard in two ways:
First, it's hard to convince people of the power of conversation. Such difficulty is not too surprising as few of us have experienced the types of compelling conversations that make a difference in our organizations.
Managers think they need to be seen to talk tough and argue and debate things and conversation or dialogue is soft and wooly.
How many times do you hear that something needs to be debated, but you rarely hear that we need to have some creative dialogue?
We need both – dialogue and debate. Each has its place.
Second, conversation is hard in that it creates some solid outcomes.
Making a decision may seem like a hard result. And of course, it is. But what if that decision is flawed. It's a hard outcome but a bad one.
Now imagine a conversation that helps a group of people make sense of a situation and thus put them in a better position to make an improved decision.
Is this outcome – “improved understanding”- soft or is it hard?
It's hard of course! Conversation is anything but soft and wooly.