Courageous Leadership: How to Build Deeper Understanding

The word ‘dialogue’ comes from a Greek word denoting a “flow of meaning.”

The definition refers to the process of coming together to discuss or have a conversation. When two or more people converse, it’s almost a given that there will be differing points of view.

Dialogue is different from the word ‘debate’ which looks for flaws in an opponent’s arguments in order to win, and creates a you-win/I-lose dynamic. Dialogue is more about an exchange of ideas, perspectives, and opinions with the underlying intention of seeking mutual understanding. In its truest form, it builds bridges through the flow of conversation. 

Courageous leaders understand one of the most effective ways to build deeper understanding is to build their own communication skills that foster and increase open dialogue.

In changing times, being able to leverage the benefits of differing perspectives allows for broader and more valuable insights internally and externally.

What some people fail to remember is that communication is bi-directional. It requires both the act of conveying information and the receipt of listening by another. Listening is key. The quality of listening is also critical. If you are merely an auditory witness and fail to consider what is being said, they it isn’t really listening. And it certainly doesn’t promote dialogue. 

One of the most difficult elements of communication is to listen without ego or judgment. It’s hard because our minds tend to build defenses. Whether to defend our ideas, build a case, or seek to win “against” the other ideas, building deeper understanding requires actively listening.

We must remain neutral and open. A listener must be willing to consider something other than what they already believe.

By asking the internal questions, “How does this person see this differently? What are they seeing that I may not be?” with the intention of seeking to understand from the other person’s perspective, you have the opportunity to expand your own viewpoint and focus less on proving you’re right.

In doing this, you begin building safety and trust. People intuit immediately this shift to curiosity. It’s a way of being that allows for differences to be present, despite how passionate your views may be.

Courageous leaders aren’t afraid to discuss issues where there may be strong disagreement with their team. They don’t have to firehose and impose their ideas. Courageous leaders can stand in their belief with a willingness that they may not see everything. More understanding is not a threat, it’s meerly more information that can serve the greater purpose.  

They openly ask questions that invite a deeper understanding of issues. For example, instead of making blanket statements about taking an action, they ask a question about what the cost or consequences might be if an action is taken.

In order for assumptions to be revealed be curious.

The more probing questions you ask, the more information you’ll have, and therefore the more likely you’re going to get the best solution to your problem.

When the end goal is to build deeper understanding (of a problem, issue, or between people), you employ the power of the pause and reflect on the process.

  • Where are we? Did I or we learn anything new?
  • Did judgment creep in or was I or we truly open to understanding new perspectives?
  • When someone disagreed with you, did you look at whether what they were seeing was something you missed?

Courageous leaders that invest in building their own dialogue skills evoke far more creative solutions in their organization. Their team members are more likely to step up, contribute, and think outside the proverbial box. By modeling, these courageous leaders seed the organization and it’s individuals to create a culture where healthy communication is intrinsic and the key that turns teams into a community.

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