Coffee Conversations Ep. 5: Casual and Critical Conversation

August 06, 2020
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

Listening is important in every aspect of life.

When you listen to another person, whether you're a leader, parent or friend, you're letting them know that they're important, that they matter. But listening itself is not enough. Empathy is also needed. When we listen with empathy, we understand, respect, and value others’ perspectives.

Empathy is also critical when the tenor of conversations change, as David VanderMolen explains in this episode of our Coffee Conversations series — created to share our internal leadership training with the world in a creative and memorable way. (Catch up on the series with episodes one, two, three and four.)

Here's more from David:

Most conversations can be divided into two broad categories: Casual or Critical.

Casual conversations tend to be a free exchange of ideas between people who are comfortable to express their unfiltered emotions and to engage with others without any sense of encumberment.

The dynamics of casual conversations are easy for everyone, potentially entertaining, generally extemporaneous, and an “as-is-expected” experience for everyone.

It’s not uncommon for casual conversations to subtlety convert over time or to suddenly change into critical conversation without much warning. The signs that such a shift has occurred can be detected in the dynamics of the conversation. The greatest of which is an expression, usually through cues, clues or signals, that someone is experiencing a problem.

At this point, you know the conversation has shifted from casual to critical and in turn our need to express empathy to the other becomes an essential behavior to practice if we wish to to create a connection, continue our connection with the other or help the other solve their problem by carrying out a critical conversation.

As you think about what David is saying, here are some questions to ask yourself: What can we do to better detect when a conversation is shifting from casual to critical? How will we express empathy to others when our conversations with others become critical?


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