Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 12


Conversations are Critical in Partnerships

Gathering people into a group can be tricky. Sometimes they click, personalities mesh, and the group’s work goes well. But at other times, first impressions and assumptions can win out, and the group deals with tension. This may sabotage the planned work of the group. Even when the people coming together are not strangers, and sometimes because they’re not, there can be simmering issues. What are people really talking about? Do we make time to really talk and listen to the people to whom we are closest and the people with whom we work? In this digital age, where life is changing at such an amazing pace, do we have the tools and support to help us effectively communicate within our own family, work groups, and community? Conversations facilitate teamwork, foster family communication, and enhance authentic relationships between mates and colleagues. There are no limits to the topics of conversation. Beginning new conversations is where the magic happens. Now, more than ever, in this digital age, people need to really communicate on a deeper level with each other. Nonprofit leaders are running religious institutions, membership organizations, cause-based charities, and community foundations. These are people who have a very tight network of people gathered around a particular philosophy. But that doesn’t mean they talk to each other.

between them. And you don’t always have to speak about everything all the time. For some people, that’s a real learning process. Each participant can share as much as they are comfortable with. The rules also include not interrupting. It also helps to use I statements rather than we. It’s a key concept to keep coming back to self. The rest of us go, “Oh yeah, I can relate to that as well.” It gives people permission to come on board without the request or the demand to come on board. That’s an important process. Be very careful to come from the place of talking from within your own experience, so that you’re not putting anybody on the spot, but you’re being more inviting for them to relate in the way that is comfortable for them. It’s also helpful when we recognize that we have different language. Sometimes we can get caught up in the words and it holds us back. If we can go behind the words and get a feeling for what is going on, we won’t get lost in the language. When we use words, especially words that can have a charge, when we talk about love or God or universe or spirit, people have different ways of expressing that. Just allow and be accepting of the fact that ultimately we are referring to the same thing.The energy behind the thought is what’s important. It is important to allow individuals within the organization, who often volunteer many hours of time, a more meaningful continued on page 42

Rules for Conversation In group operations, it’s critical to facilitate open and authentic communication. I am constantly becoming more aware of the need to start with myself. As I analyzed my own actions, I became aware of how easy it could be for me to retreat into old comfort zones and judge what was said by others. I believe real authentic communication is a two-way process. We need to be able to speak and feel safe speaking, authentically speak, and know that we won’t be criticized. I believed that it was also really important to engage in active listening, really listening to each other. I have shifted that, though, because I have done some work with nonviolent communication and empathetic communication. I really believe now that it’s about empathetic listening. It’s not just listening to the words; it’s listening with a willingness to understand the intent behind the words. It’s a whole different paradigm. When you can really do that and tune in, and get a feel for what the person is about, have some empathy for the person, and have some empathy for yourself, you can then relate what is being said to yourself. Create an openness and a connection. When people laugh, we learn. I have a big belief that we can go deep and laugh at the same time. You don’t have to choose

SynerVision Leadership .org I 11

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