HR & Staffing

Understanding the true meaning of Conversations

Evan Goodman
Written by Evan Goodman

Meetings are synonymous to workplace gatherings and conferences.  On the other hand, conversation implies a more casual discussion that can be serious in content and nature. What would happen if we replaced workplace meetings with conversations?

Here are some reasons why most of us prefer conversations to meetings. When implemented, conversations make a workplace seem more friendly.

A conversation involves both talking and listening. It is an expression and an exchange of ideas with another individuals. Conversely, a meeting is the act of consulting with another person or as a group, and is more formal.

Conversations have a greater mix of active listening and voluntary participation. We take part in conversations because we are genuinely interested in knowing and understanding the other person’s thoughts. Meetings are often forced onto us. We must attend meetings whether we like it or not.

Conversations force us to listen to the other person because if we don’t, we won’t know what they are talking about. On the other hand, you can get away with sitting through an hour-long meeting without uttering a word. Given that they’re involuntary, you are likely to simply switch off during a meeting.

Conversations reset the power and compliance dynamic because they enable us to be heard. Meetings are often spearheaded by a manager or leader. You are forced to listen and very rarely are you asked for your opinion.

Conversations generate their own interest because once you have spoken your piece, you are focused on how the other person is going to respond to what you have said.

Many meetings have started and ended with a manager speaking right through without asking for feedback or input. These one-way speeches fail to generate any interest. Instead, they are merely seen as a time when rules or information can be handed down.

Conversations are free of pressure. They are a healthy way for people to express their thoughts and ideas without any serious agenda or judgement. They encourage free-flowing dialogue. Meetings are designed for a group to plan and strategise. Meetings also inhibit free participation.

Conversations are free-flowing. You can bounce around from one topic to another leading to insights and ideas that might arise during meetings. That is because meetings are agenda-driven.

Conversations take place in a safe place where new ideas and possibilities can be explored. Meetings are streamlined and designed to address a specific topic.

Conversations are democratic in nature. They can bring people who don’t think alike together in a space where they can respect each other’s viewpoints. Conversations tend to work better with lower-level employees who hesitate to rock the boat in a formal meeting. Conversations work better for them because they feel safe enough to speak their mind in an informal conversation. New ideas and honest communication  are often kept out of meetings can find a place in informal conversations.

Conversations come naturally to us. We can jump in and out of conversations, taking up from where we left off. Meetings have a strict beginning and end. They require coordination at a particular time and place.


How to change meetings into conversations

Given that conversations can have better outcomes than meetings, we must try to replace meetings with conversations when possible. It’s far too easy to be mentally absent from meetings that we physically attend. But how can we drop traditional meetings and replace them with real conversations that work?

Here are four ways to switch over to meetings:

  1. Change the language you use

Replace meeting with conversation – it’s that simple to start. You will find that people are more open to attending these sessions.

  1. One-on-one

More than two people having a conversation can change the dynamics of the interaction. Stick to one-on-one conversations that help you get the best and most genuine feedback from people.

  1. Stop using email chains

Instead of sending out an email to everyone you want to have a conversation with, start talking with the most relevant people. You will automatically find that your conversations will lead to conversations with others who should be involved as well.

  1. Have face-to-face conversations

Avoid holding conversations electronically. Instead, meet in person if possible.

Not every occasion warrants a conversation, but if you are going to have one, make sure you have a real one.

“The opinions expressed by BizWitty Contributors are their own, not those of BizCover and should not be relied upon in place of appropriate professional advice. Please read our full disclaimer."

About the author

Evan Goodman

Evan Goodman

Over the past 30 years, Evan Goodman | Business Coach has founded numerous ‘start-ups’, built them into successful businesses and gone on to sell them. He has experienced and overcome most of the common challenges faced by business owners and leaders and understands the pressure and stresses that running a business can cause.

He also recognises the value and importance of getting sound advice and support when faced by these common challenges and of being prepared to openly discuss issues with a coach or mentor.

Since building up his last business into a national company, and selling it in 2009, Evan focusses on coaching SME business owners on how to become business leaders. He has a Masters of Business Coaching degree UOW; creating a unique blend of experience, expertise and coaching best practice for his clients.

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