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peter vajda

Great topic, Steve.

So, there are three things you say that tug on my sleeve. (1)"Am I safe expressing my beliefs..."; (2)"Transformational conversations are different. When we enter this kind of a conversation...." and (3) "These (transactional) can be dysfunctional because they sustain an already bad situation. (For those of you who are married or in a long term relationship, think of the habitual argument or the habitual silence maker".

The thread running through all of this, IMHO, is that of safety and trust. What supports my feeling safe speaking my mind and what obstacles stand in the way of my feeling safe? Many dysfunctional relationships, at work and at home, reflect the absence of honesty, openness and safety. Why? Hmmm.

There are myriad reasons (moreso: excuses)(perhaps you'll touch on this, or not) but the underlying foundation and building block of a conscious, healthy relationship is having a container that allows for safety and vulnerability. Trust is another element.

When trust and safety are lacking, then transactional relationships are the pro-forma way of relating - polite, often desultory, but seldom transforming, seldom allowing for one to be vulnerable, open, exposed, vis-a-vis their thoughts, feelings, weaknesses, even fears. Many folks prefer the "safe" transactional type of interaction because they are fearful about telling the truth about themselves, exposing their own limitations, faults, mistakes.

The definition of transforming, for me, is having to go through the uncomfortable, the challenging, the unpleasant...that's show we get to the other side and remain as an intact team (moving beyond being a "group") or partnerhip/couple. That's whwy many teams are really groups and why many marriages are really "roommate" situations. Folks haven't learned how to be honest, vulnerable as to "who they are" and "how they are" (under the hood), so they masquerade at "relating" and it's transactional.

Transformational relationships are built on the partners or team members being willing to say, "I was wrong."; I made a mistake.", "I need help." "I don't know" and "I'm not sure." Simple, but never easy!

Transformational relationships require personal revelation, warts and all--not a common or shared value in workpalce relationships or even in many marriages and partnerships.

So without trust, vulnerability and safety, and a continued emphasis on such, relationships gravitate towards the transactionmal end of the continuum more than not.

I look forward to this week's conversation.

Lisa Gates

Steve, thank you so much for this thread. If workplaces really really got this, we would indeed be living in a transformed world.

One little piece of a transformational conversation is, like you said, showing up without an agenda, and willing to move beyond right/wrong. Dr. Phil's famous question (I think it was Dr. Phil) is "Would you rather be right or be married?"

A beginning point for these kinds of conversations (especially problem-solving conversations) is to focus on making workplace agreements, just like you might make relationship agreements. These may seem a bit esoteric or touchy feel for the workplace, but how about swinging the pendulum a bit...?

I agree to be curious.
I agree to listen without defending.
I agree to listen without fixing.
I agree to take responsibility for my impact on others.
I understand that my issues with others may be reflections of my issues with myself.
I agree to go to the source.
I agree to ask for help when I need it.
I agree to not make people wrong when they ask for help.
I agree to fix the problem, not the person.
I agree to take the high road.

Stuff like that. I do think agreements help create the trust Peter is talking about.

What if as a condition for employment we all had to take a course in personal development? What if we all had some required reading like the Arbinger Institute's Leadership and Self Deception?

2 cents m'loves.

Steve Roesler


It's my hope that, as a result of insights such as yours and Lisa's, that the conversation will continue in a way that will help the email questioner discover some answers.

Steve Roesler


The list that you offer up goes a long way toward answering the original question posed. One of the reasons is that each is a positive action which the brain can process and act upon. The idea of telling ourselves that we "won't" do something doesn't really register in a way that allows us to do something that we desire. So instead of "note judging", we can "agree to be curious."

Looking forward to a good week with this...

Hayli @ Rise Smart

Wouldn't it be cool if people could learn to apply these conversation strategies not only to everyday topics like jobs and career, but even to such "off-limit" topics as religion and politics? The world would be a better place.

Steve Roesler


That went through my mind while writing the post. The topics of religion and politics carry the deepest sense of personal values and beliefs and thus the greatest potential for argument.

Each of these has as its foundation the principle of personal choice. In the case of one's faith, it is an issue of having decided upon a relationship with the as-yet-unseen. In politics, it is an issue of one's belief about the nature of the relationship of governments to their constituents; during elections, it's also about the as-yet-unseen. So people can become dogmatic about that which they have personally reconciled but not calmly share the reasons for their conclusions. So, if they were willing and able to follow some of the guidelines above, a conversation would be more likely.

Keep up the good work over at Rise Smart. . .

Wally Bock

Thanks to you and the reader for this topic, Steve. Peter, as is his wont, immediately noted two important points, trust and safety. I think those are vital and often take time to develop. This is not a "let's sit down and have a transformational conversation, shall we" project.

I'd like to add one more piece to Peter's first two. One of my favorite theologians, Paul Tillich, said that "Listening is the first act of love." People need to know that someone is actively listening. Otherwise the risk they're taking won't matter.

Steve Roesler

Thanks for that one from Tillich, Wally. "Listening" is all too often defined as "not talking."

We hear a lot about intended organizational transformation, but we don't hear much about organizations who have succeeded. The need to get something done this quarter undermines the process of transformation because it often does get treated as a project.

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