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Thursday, October 06, 2016

Protocols and Purpose for Honest Conversation

Many are afraid of honest conversation. They don't want to talk about the "bad news" or points that bring about debate or conflict. Hence, in some cases, less than ideal situations prevail.

I'm sure that we've all experienced this in our personal and professional lives. However, the reality is that we do well to bring up tough issues and discuss those issues with honesty, respect, and a solutions based attitude.

This leads me to wonder about the best protocols for honest conversation. Last week when I attended the Massachusetts' Department of Education's Teacher Advisory Cabinet meeting, I liked the protocols they proposed at the start of the meeting which included "solutions based attitude" and "share the air time."

As I think more about this, I recognize that promoting honest conversation depends on many factors including the following:
  • Is there a history of honest conversation or has this not existed before?
  • How are the norms for this conversation created and carried out?
  • Is honest conversation welcome or is it not allowed?
  • How is the conversation carried out so that everyone has voice?
  • What happens when differences of opinion and debate occur?
  • What is the focus of the conversation and what "solutions" are the aim of the talk?
Not too long ago, an individual told me that when she broached a challenging discussion with honest conversation, she was labeled, "unprofessional." That leads me to wonder when is honest conversation unprofessional and when is it professional? 

I believe in honest conversation. Like everyone, I don't always like it as honest conversation sometimes brings about tough issues to tackle, yet when done with good aim, focus, and collaboration, honest conversation almost always results in improved outcomes, better camaraderie, and more dynamic future work. I saw this happen recently when our broad team worked on some tough issues related to specific teaching/learning points. Though tough to deliberate at first, the outcome has been terrific including increased targeted support for student learning and greater investment by students too. 

How do you promote honest conversation in your collaborative circles both personally and professionally? Why does this matter? What protocols lead this kind of discussion forward? What roles and process aid this work? I'll be thinking more about this in the days to come.