A 5-Step Method to a Meaningful Conversation

17 Apr ‘24
4 min
Work performance
Nicolas Maréchal
Reviewed by psychologist Jochem Bukman
As a manager, empowering your team starts with meaningful conversations. However, facilitating these conversations can be challenging, particularly if you feel uncomfortable or unsure. So, how can you ensure that your conversations have the desired effect? In this article, we share a 5-step method for more meaningful conversations. 


What is a meaningful conversation?


Before exploring our 5-step method, let’s define a ‘meaningful conversation’. It’s more than small talk; it’s about connecting on a deeper, personal level. This involves showing genuine interest and empathy in the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. 


Meaningful dialogues can initiate innovative thinking, collaborative problem-solving, and effective teamwork. These conversations can cover anything from everyday tasks to broader ambitions and goals. “By engaging in these exchanges, individuals feel reassured and valued, integral to the organisation’s success. Ultimately, having meaningful conversations boosts mental well-being, strengthens relationships, and drives performance, benefiting everyone involved”, says certified psychologist Jochem Bukman.


Step 1 – Step into their shoes


Before starting a conversation, think about who is on the other side. You can do this by ‘stepping into their shoes’ as you prepare for your conversation together. This also helps you to build empathy and be more present for the other person. 


To prepare for the conversation, you could ask yourself the following questions: 


  • What type of person am I speaking to? For example, are they shy or more extroverted?
  • What is their communication style: are they to the point, or less direct? 
  • Are there any cultural differences I need to consider? 
  • Finally, consider what the other person might need in this conversation. For example, do they need clarity or more support? 


Continue considering these questions throughout the conversation, ensuring you are still heading in the right direction and understanding their perspective. Listen, ask questions and summarise the conversation. 


Step 2 – Have you received their consent? 


Consent is an essential starting point for a meaningful conversation, both for buy-in and to signal psychological safety. Have you asked if the other person is open to the conversation? And have they agreed? 


Always ask permission if you want to share suggestions or ask sensitive questions. For example: ‘I noticed that you were very quiet during the meeting. Can we talk about that?’ Or: ‘I have an idea for a different approach. Are you open to hearing more?’ 


Be ready for a ‘no’ too, if somebody does not want this conversation you can refer them to other resources or ask if they would be open to having the conversation at another moment. 


💡 You may also be interested in this article: Cultivating Psychology Safety as a Manager


Step 3 – Are you present?


To have a meaningful conversation, you must be fully present. Ensure that there are no distractions and that you have privacy. For example, choose a closed room without windows. 


In addition, be present not only to what is said but also to how it is said. Pay attention to the other person’s tone, body language and pace. Also, be aware of your own emotions and how you can regulate them during the conversation. For example, take a deep breath if you notice that you are becoming impatient. The key here is to allow yourself to have some moments of silence too, it helps reorient yourself and creates space for reflection. 


Step 4 – Do you fully understand the other person’s perspective?


In a meaningful conversation, you try to understand the other person. You do this by asking open and curious questions and avoiding suggestive questions. For example, don’t ask: ‘Did you feel uncomfortable during the presentation?’ Instead, you can ask: ‘How was your experience with the presentation?’ 


Additionally, practise being non-judgemental and accepting the other person’s perspective. To ensure that you have understood the other person correctly, you can summarise what has been said and check if you are on the right track. 


Step 5 – Are there clear next steps?


At the end of your conversation, make clear agreements about the next steps. What are you agreeing to for the future? How will you or the other person follow up? And what do they need from you? 


Also, be clear about what you can do for the other person and if needed what other resources are available to them. For example, can you help them further, or is there a colleague or a different department that can assist them?  


The power of a meaningful conversation


Meaningful conversations require dedication and attentiveness but can profoundly impact connections and understanding. By implementing a 5-step method, you can greatly enhance interactions, ensuring team members feel heard, seen, and valued. 


This approach fosters a safe environment, significantly boosting mental well-being by reducing stress and elevating self-esteem. “In such a space, everyone not only works but thrives together, cultivating a culture where growth and well-being go hand in hand”, concludes Jochem.


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