Every conversation is an emotional one. We are emotional beings, and can easily be triggered emotionally on a continuum from Fear to Excitement.
When we refer to conversations that are not emotional, we are really describing conversations where emotion is effectively managed or are in the slightly happy state. In terms of thinking capability, and problem-solving capability, we are at our best when slightly above calm and acceptance, in the “slightly happy” space. There are many ways to support others to get into that slightly happy place of acceptance, and a powerful one is permission.
Until I did my coach training back in 2006, I had not really had this concept brought to my attention. It’s likely that we all use it occasionally without realising because we are very polite beings, but using it deliberately takes conversations to a whole new level.
Asking permission in a conversation is respectful, it acknowledges the appropriate control that person has, and should have, within the conversation, it facilitates deeper thinking and reflection, and it is extremely effective in building trust.
Using permission protects you from inadvertently setting off “threat” responses that we know can shut people down or limit their cognitive capability. It’s like getting the green light to proceed down a path of questioning or discussion, particularly if that path is personal or potentially challenging.
So how and when do you use permission? Well, firstly, more often than you think and this may feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Secondly, you don’t need to use the word “permission” because that gets a bit creepy. And finally, at the beginning and end of a conversation, and at each point where you are changing focus or wandering into uncharted territory.
Here are some examples of using permission that might make this easier for you to experiment with.
- Are you OK to have this conversation now? Do you have time?
- Is it OK if I ask you a few questions about what you just said?
- We’re getting into personal stuff there, are you still Ok to continue?
- I can see this is emotional for you, do you need to take a minute, or are you OK to continue?
- I’m thinking it might be of value to explore that concept, is that OK?
- Is it OK if I reflect back what I am hearing you say?
- Would you like to look at what options you now have?
- Are you comfortable leaving the conversation here. Is there anything else?
- Would it be OK if I add a different perspective?
- May I challenge you on that to see if we can take your thinking a bit deeper?
Take some time this week to add permission and validation to your conversations. The more you try, the more comfortable it will feel.