How to Have REAL Conversations


How to Have REAL Conversations

by Marcia Reynolds

Image courtesy of Ambro at

How many conversations do you have that seem to go well but nothing happens as a result? How many other conversations do you have that don’t go well because no one wants to mention the truth about the situation – fearing negative feedback and emotional retaliation?

John R. Stoker, president of DialogueWORKS Inc. has written a book to help people deal with these frustrating conversations. The book is called, Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold REAL Conversations that Create Respect, Build Relationships, and Get Results.

The worst situation is when you think you had a normal conversation but end up mystified when performance remains the same, accountability never improves, problems aren’t solved, customers aren’t satisfied, and challenges go unaddressed. You think you’ve shared your message, but obviously something about the conversation didn’t work.

It’s true that people easily misinterpret what they hear because of internal filters based on past experiences. As a normal human, it’s easy to beat around the bush so people don’t really know what you want. So they shake their heads and move on, letting the conversation drift out of their memory as they face other important tasks.

You may not mean to engage in fake talk, but your emotions may sabotage your desire to be real.

Hold REAL Conversations

REAL is an acronym for four skills useful for all conversations.

Recognize and suspend judgments

Express thoughts, feelings, experience, or opinions without creating resistance

Ask questions to understand

Listen and attend to messages that others express verbally and non-verbally.

REAL conversations focus on establishing a respectful relationship while speaking. The intent is to ensure that you listen and respond while speaking so that others feel understood, valued and respected. Even if someone disagrees, they don’t feel as if you made them wrong or that you devalued their ideas. They feel acknowledged, even if they have to change their behavior.

Coaching Tip:

To assess the quality of your conversations, answer four questions:

  • Am I getting the results I want after one conversation?
  • Do people feel good about our relationship during and after our conversations?
  • Can I honestly say that I treat others as I would want them to treat me, no matter who they are or what they do?
  • Can I be wrong? Are there times when what I want isn’t possible?

The last item is the most significant when judging the quality of your conversations. The greatest opportunities for holding REAL Conversations come when no one agrees with your view, and you don’t get what you want. If you aren’t open to REAL conversations all the time, you put results, respect, and relationships in jeopardy.

To achieve the results you seek, stop engaging in fake talk. Instead, engage in conversations that express what you truly think, feel, or want—and listen and accept what others truly think, feel, and want as equal in value to your own input. Together, you can find a way to make and meet real expectations.

 About the Author:

marcia cropped orange small lightMarcia Reynolds, PsyD, works with clients worldwide focusing on emotional intelligence and change. She is a Master Certified Coach and a past president of the International Coach Federation. Her website is

Contact her at 602-954-9030,