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Brain circuits

Do you know the hallmarks of effective dialogue?

Published 7 February 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

Excellent dialogue is a critical characteristic of high-performance teams, but it doesn’t happen as often as it should within organizations. Authentic dialogue is a process of thinking together and discovering deeper insights from each other to find greater truth. To facilitate this type of dialogue, you can take certain actions:

Be direct. Avoid the traps of passivity, discounting of the other person, redefining as a way not to answer questions, and – the most destructive of all – over-detailing. These are all dialogue blockers. Dialogue includes deep listening, and not just talking.

Use four sentences or fewer. When in a dialogue, use four sentences or fewer before letting the other person speak. If you can’t say what you want in this amount of time, you may be overloading their brain. You will not, of course, be able to address all the details – these can always be expressed later as needed. This is based on the neuroscience of how the brain pays attention and remembers information.

Paraphrase what has been said. This assures you are actively listening to what has been said, and avoids just talking at or over each other.

Ask clear questions. Put your question into a clear format of one sentence, as exemplified by excellent communicators. If you struggle with this, monitor yourself or have someone else give you feedback.

Plan your delivery. Focus on how you express what you want to say to make it easier to listen to. Words and how they are said matter. Avoid mutual monologues.

Teaching teams to have effective dialogue

If your team is struggling with having productive conversations, you can use certain techniques to get things back on track.

The “red card” method: this means literally showing others a red card when someone throws up a block to dialogue. This is done by agreement and with respect.

Ban “yes… but”: this is generally a discount and confuses the brain. Use an alternative such as “yes and,” which allows the dialogue to go deeper.

Practice saying your ideas in one sentence: If you can master this, then the second, third and fourth sentences become an add-on.

Most meetings are unnecessarily long and leave team members exhausted. Effective dialogue can reduce meeting time by as much as 60% or more and leave team members energized and inspired. Your brain loves effective dialogue!







george kohreiser

George Kohlrieser

Distinguished Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at IMD

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD and Director of the High Performance Leadership program. He serves as a consultant to several global companies including Accenture, Amer Sports, Borealis, Cisco, Coca-Cola, HP, Hitachi, IBM, IFC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Morgan Stanley, Motorola, NASA, Navis, Nestlé, Nokia, Pictet, Rio Tinto, Roche, Santander, Swarovski, Sara Lee, Tetra Pak, Toyota, and UBS.


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