Transforming Conversations

Don Rapley

Co-Founder of Transform Your Conversations

Having a conversation fulfils a basic human need to connect, to belong, to share, to grow and much more. Conversing is a skill we have been practicing over our entire lifetime, yet many times we take it for granted. Words spoken can have so much power. It can lift spirits or crush them. It can raise hope and instil inspiration, yet it can crush dreams and foster fear and negativity. So…
How can we ensure that our conversations help others to transform?
To help us answer this question is Don Rapley, co-founder of the company Transform your Conversations.

Podcast Episode Highlights

What is the difference between an ordinary conversation and a transformative conversation?

Conversations that transform come from listening, questioning and probing in a way that changes your perspective. These conversations are transformative because transform they help you to get a deeper understanding of somebody else’s point of view point of view.


What are the important elements that make up a transformative conversation? 

For a conversation to be transformative, it needs to be a stimulating, 2-way exchange with the other person. There are some very simple things you can do to structure the conversation to achieve this. The first key element is to demonstrate that you are 100% present and attentive in the conversation. There are so many distractions that can deflect you from this, but I think this is the most important element in developing empathy with your partner and in many ways it is a sign of respect that is key to building trustful relationships.

The second element is to ask simple, open and probing questions…this shows you are genuinely interested in what the other person has to say and encourages them to open up. Listening intently is the third important element…. this is going with the flow of the conversation, picking up what is being said, reflecting and reformulating, dig deeper to get deeper understanding of what is being discussed. This is where transformation starts to happen.


What are the common mistakes in a conversation?

Some people just don’t have the time to commit to a deep conversation and may have something else on their mind. This is the most common mistake I find and  if you want to have a meaningful exchange, you need to be available to devote the time to do all of the things we talked about earlier. I think another trap can be to do too much of the talking!  It’s important to be aware of the amount of air space you are taking and allow your partner to explore their own ideas and develop their thoughts.

Another potential trap in a conversation is to interrupt someone’s train of thought. This is really easy to do, but what it can say to your partner is that your thoughts are more important than theirs. It’s about getting a balance and being aware of the effect it has when you interrupt too often.


How does a good conversation look like in a team environment?

It’s important that managers devote enough time to talk to their teams. In my experience, underperforming performing teams just don’t talk to each other frequently enough, often focused too much on past performance and task delivery.

I think teams need time to reflect on how they’re doing, giving everyone the opportunity to contribute, sharing feedback on what is working well and providing suggestions on what they would like to improve. When team conversations are facilitated regularly, team members learn to openly express their views in a neutral and non-judgemental manner. They also get used to the idea that everyone on the team has a contribution to make.

What is it about conversations that help someone learn?

True learning comes from trying things out, reflecting on insights and doing something different next time round.  The power of conversations to facilitate that learning by exploring what happened in any given situation ….what worked well that we need to keep on doing, what didn’t work that we could improve or do differently?

What are the ways that an introverted person can start a conversation?

People with a preference for introversion are not necessarily less skilled in holding a conversation. Typically, they are very good in one to one or small group settings, but initiating a conversation can be challenging for them. They can sometimes be seen as reserved, reflective or shy, even to the extent of being unsociable and unwilling to contribute. This perception is flawed as often Introverts make significant contributions to conversations because they are very focused, are concentrated on what is happening and thinking things through in a way that extraverts don’t.

Introverts often don’t enjoy talking about themselves and maybe a more comfortable way to start a conversation is to ask questions about the other person first. They don’t have to be intrusive or too personal, but asking someone where they are from, or what do they do are great ways to start a discussion.


What are the things that extroverts need to be aware of in a conversation?

Extroverts are typically driving the energy of a conversation. They are resourceful and inventive and enjoy interacting with other people. They develop their ideas from discussion and learn by doing. They do need to develop an awareness of the impact they have on other people and careful that the focus of the conversation is not always on them.

My advice to extroverts is to listen intently, making a real effort to find out more about your partner, asking open and probing questions and find out what makes them tick!


How can I approach someone who is from a different culture to me?

It can be challenging when exchanging with someone when English is not their mother tongue. Misunderstanding and frustrations can arise and we know that Culture can often be a barrier rather than a facilitator of great relationships. When you are not speaking in your own language, it can be challenging to find the right words to say what you really mean and can sometimes lead to a loss of confidence.

I think that when you approach someone from a different culture, you need to be  humble and make allowances for potential misunderstanding. Make it easy for the other person to understand you by speaking slowly and articulating clearly. Be clear and simple in your questions. Ask easy-access questions when you start the conversation to build trust and create a connection.


Any parting advice for listeners? 

Listen a bit more and talk a bit less the next time you have a conversation and see what happens!

Say hello!

If you’d like to get in touch with Don Rapley, you can look for him via:


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