Are You a Leader Who Nourishes or Depletes During Tough Conversations?

At the recent Professional Development Conference for the Central Iowa Chapter of the Association for Talent Development, Sarah Noll Wilson served as the opening keynote speaker, and I’d like to share my favorite takeaway from that speech, because it fits so well with previous themes.

Bottom Line Up Front:

In every conversation, we are on a continuum of either building (nourishing) or eroding (depleting) trust, and a big part of this is whether we are using language that nourishes trust or depletes trust.

When we come into a setting with the right approach, we choose humility and curiosity, and we use words that inspire transparency, relationship building, and understanding, rather than provoking fear, uncertainty, or stress. Sarah pointed out that one of the reasons we resist this approach is because, in her words, “we are addicted to being right,” and that addiction can keep us from being our best in conversations.

Noll Wilson proposes that there are three kinds of conversations:

Transactional, in which we tell, sell, or yell. These transmit information and have their place.

Positional, in which we advocate or inquire. These have their place, but have an established goal.

Transformational, in which we share and discover. This is what to shoot for, because instead of headed in a predetermined direction, we’re seeking to learn. This is the place of humility and curiosity that servant leaders strive for.

If we come to a conversation without a transformational approach, we risk depleting.

We use words that exclude, judge, limit, withhold, dictate, and/or criticize. Those will deplete trust and cause stress, leading to unhealthy conflict or conflict avoidance.

But if we nourish, we come with words that include, appreciate, expand, share, discover, develop, and/or celebrate.

That language leads to healthy conflict and genuine discovery.

To learn more about nourishing and depleting conversations, Sarah recommends the book Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glasser.

  1. Sally Wilke
    | Reply

    Thinking about a group I lead and how this might be helpful in any of our conversations. I’ll follow up with the recommended book too. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *