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The power of one conversation

Woman in hat having a conversation

Have you ever had one of those moments when someone tells you that something you said made a real difference in his or her life? Maybe it’s a conversation you don’t even remember, but it helped the other person make a change or shift their perspective.

As busy as we all are, it’s important to realize how much you can affect another person with a single conversation. Just making someone feel validated, supported or heard makes a big impact and takes only a few minutes of your time.

We all have those times when we feel stuck or frustrated and need to talk through a challenge. To be a great conversation partner when someone needs a sounding board, you don’t have to have all the answers or come up with an action plan. She may be in a frustrating situation that she can’t change in the short term, but even helping her shift her attitude about the situation can be extremely valuable.

The key thing is just to be fully present for the other person. Take in what she’s saying, both with her words and with her tone and her body language. That kind of deep listening is a gift. Take time to reflect what you notice: “You sound very upset about this.” “You sound drained.” “You just don’t seem like yourself.”

These three questions can be helpful to ask the other person move forward:

  • How do you feel right now?
  • What do you really need right now?
  • What do you most want right now?

(They’re also great questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling frustrated or stuck.)

The first two questions can help the other person identify her emotions and think strategically. Perhaps she feels disappointed and needs to feel appreciated. Sometimes we tend to stay “in our heads” about tough work challenges, so also getting in touch with our emotions can help us find the best solutions.

The “What do you want?” question helps the other person start to take action to get centered again. That could mean getting positive encouragement from someone else, taking a break, getting some sleep, going for a stress-relieving run or spending quality time with family.

This week, notice the colleagues around you who may need you to lend an ear or share your insight, and make yourself available for conversation. This small step for you can lead to big results for someone else.

Neena Newberry is president of Newberry Executive Solutions. A former Deloitte executive, she is an executive coach who helps women "think and play big."

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.