In my last two articles, I’ve explored the concept of a team’s Conversational Capacity®. Conversational capacity is the ability to have open, balanced, non-defensive dialogue about tough subjects and in challenging circumstances.

Teams that have a high conversational capacity know how to stay in the “sweet spot.” The sweet spot is where candor and curiosity are in balance. Dialogue flows freely, people share their input willingly and listen to the feedback of others without judgment. Good work happens in the sweet spot.

The challenge, of course, is getting and keeping your team’s conversations in the sweet spot. There are two primary factors that pull us away from the sweet spot and lower our conversational capacity: fight and flight. The fight reaction shows itself in team communication when people engage in “win” behavior.

They argue, try to dominate the conversation, discount the input of others, or even refuse to listen to alternative viewpoints. The flight reaction is manifested when team members “minimize” their contributions. They shut down, don’t offer their ideas, discount their own opinions, avoid conflict, or offer half-hearted, wishy-washy viewpoints to avoid upsetting others.

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