How to Have Meaningful Conversations: Book review

9 February 2021

Have you ever considered the structure of a conversation and your part in it?

Interpersonal communication is a significant part of our daily work and private lives.

In How To Have Meaningful Conversations, Sarah Rozenthuler explains seven strategies to prepare for and have life’s big or difficult conversations.

She uses examples that we can all imagine or may have seen playout in front of us; your boss or work colleague undermining you but you getting nowhere when raising it, having a conversation about changing or breaking-up a relationship and addressing someone who is taking your support for granted.

The book includes 18 exercises that help you prepare for a difficult conversation and identify your conversational strengths and weaknesses. They come with suggestions for how to improve your skills.

Sarah outlines the four actions that make up a conversation and their different intents.
• A move gives direction to the conversation: “I think we should…
• A follow shows agreement: “Let’s do as you say…
• An oppose challenges or corrects: “My challenge to that is….
• A bystand introduces perspective: “I’m noticing that…

There’s an exercise to help you identify which of the four actions you most regularly take and how you might introduce more of the others.

Which one or two do you think you use most? As you can guess, if you spend a lot of time in conversations using only one of these actions, there could be unintended consequences, such as coming across as bossy or dominating if all you do is provide moves.

I highly recommend it if you are interested in purposeful two-way communication or have one of life’s tricky conversations bearing down on you.

Birgit Schonafinger