Initiating Meaningful Conversations at Work

5 ways to stop & really connect with your work colleagues

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G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock
G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock

When was the last time you had a really meaningful conversation with a colleague?

Really meaningful.

My husband used to work with someone that when he asked him how he was every morning he would tell him ‘I’m splendid, marvellous’. He admired his positivity but he also found it a bit strange that he said the same thing every day. Months later this ‘positive’ man finally opened up to say he had actually been very stressed but embarrassed to admit it so decided to ‘hide’ it. Now this got me thinking. What if they had taken the time to chat for longer – asking questions like: ‘How is your family’ ‘How is work going?’ And then depending on the response probing a bit deeper. If he had done this his colleague might have opened up a lot earlier.  

There is growing evidence that we are spending less time and effort making ‘the human connection’. Thanks to digital communication tools (email, texting, Slack for example) it has never been easier or faster to get in touch with your colleagues but … it seems the more we rely on ‘digital communication’ the more challenging it has become to have meaningful conversations – and our productivity and success are suffering as a result. Somehow, we also seem to be  busier than ever before.

Research by UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian found that only 7 % of communication comes from the words you use, the rest comes from your voice and tone (38 percent) and your body language (55 percent).

Dr Ranjan Chatterjee talks about this in his book ‘The Stress Solution’ – 4 ways to reset your mind. He contends we’re losing the power of the human connection and that we need to connect with eyes, voice and tone. He also says touch  but this is reserved for partners or friends or it opens up a whole other ballgame!

This week on 6th February it is Time to Talk Day in the United Kingdom. This is a day for employees and managers to open up about stress and mental health, however it can also be a great time for meaningful conversations. A time to genuinely find out how your team, your colleagues and your peers are coping. 

If you are a manager you need to create a safe space for your team to be able to talk about stress and mental health. Or they won’t go there.

Here are 5 simple ways to start a meaningful conversation:

  • Go outside – one of my favourites. Suggest to your colleague you go for a short walk outside. The Outdoor Leadership Coach Simon Hawtrey-Woore says; ‘a walk and talk’ can literally put a whole other outlook on a leadership perspective’
  • Lead the way. Open up about a time when you were feeling stressed or your mental health suffered by saying something like ‘When I was working on … this was stressful for me, doing… helped me’  
  • Make eye contact and ask a question you would not normally ask like ‘what book are you reading right now’?
  • Create safety. Many of us have at one point or another – experienced feeling as if we have not been heard or appreciated when we spoke up. When people feel their comments will be listened to and treated with respect, they are more likely to be vulnerable and say exactly what they are thinking. Make sure they know that the conversation stays between you.
  • Practice listening – yes you have heard that before, but the next time you are speaking with someone. Instead of thinking what you will say next ‘simply practise listening’

If you need help with any of these initiatives contact us at


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