Saturday 10 December 2016

Conversational Intelligence?

I listened to an online presentation about Conversational Intelligence, the other day. It was largely a sales pitch by Judith Glaser for a very expensive programme, run by her, and based on her book of the same title.

It was very interesting, if somewhat tantalising: interesting enough for me to order the book, but not to sign up to the (heavily discounted if you book now!) training programme for $$$$ - despite her earnest desire that I should join her 'dream team.'

The one thing I gleaned that really captured my attention was the notion of the impact of conversations - and in particular the opening moments of conversations - on the brain of the person with whom one is talking.

Glaser was suggesting that the opening moments are likely either to produce a response based on a release of cortisol, testosterone and norepinephrine - which will take the conversation in a difficult direction and leave the other person (and possibly you, given what we know about emotional contagion) in a bad place; or conversely, a response based on a release of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, which is more likely to lead to a creative confident conversation, leaving both parties euphoric.

And whilst I might be overstating it for effect, I think she may be onto something.  Particularly if one is in a leadership (or other powerful) role, I suggest it is easier than one might realise to prompt people to be nervous or defensive.  As Daniel Nettle points out in Personality (about which I have already blogged here) we are typically over-calibrated for worry. And if that is the case, and leaders are frequently, inadvertently, provoking cortisol dumps, we can deduce that that will have an impact on the emotional state, and ultimately the culture, of the organisation. For the worried or stressed individual that results from such interactions is likely to have further interactions with others, with similar effect; and the long-lasting residual effect of a cortisol dump adds to the problems.

Conversely, a leader (and I have witnessed this recently) who takes care to have positive conversations that leave people happier than when she started talking to them (the person I have in mind has been radical enough to talk about 'kindness' as a desirable organisational behaviour) can have a significant and highly beneficial effect on the culture of her organisation. And as I say, I have witnessed that recently, and Glaser's hypothesis suggests a plausible explanation.

But I have yet to read the book, so cannot really judge her ideas: I will blog further when I have done so.

No comments:

Post a Comment