In Conversation Transformation: Recognise and Overcome the Six Most Destructive Communication Pattersn, Ben Benjamin, Amy Yeager and Anita Simon clearly explain exactly why and how conversations fail, as well as what it takes to bring about positive change. Then they go one step further-providing practical tools and skills to convert even the most bitter, longstanding disputes into productive dialogues.
Ben Benjamin, Amy Yeager and Anita Simons train readers to recognise and transform the specific behaviours that cause the majority of communication breakdowns, in all areas of professional and personal life. The learning methods are grounded in the latest neuropsychology research, and the skills are drawn from SAVI® (the System for Analysing Verbal Interaction), a framework that has been used for more than 40 years to improve communication in couples, groups, work teams and organisations.
Conversations can have the power to change you, your relationships, and your career. Conversation Transformation will leave readers not only with a keen awareness of exactly how communication breaks down, but also with practical skills to make even the most difficult conversations more productive.
Dr. Ben Benjamin is a communications consultant, business coach, writer, and entrepreneur who has been teaching communication skills for more than 30 years. A certified Senior SAVI Trainer, Ben has developed and led communications workshops for a wide range of organisations.
Amy Yeager is a certified Senior SAVI Trainer. She has designed and led SAVI trainings for multinational corporations, schools, healthcare organisations, and other nonprofit institutions, as well as individualised coaching program and Web-based seminars for ongoing skill development.
Anita Simons is co-developer with Yvonne Agazarian of SAVI® the System for Analysing Verbal Interaction. Dr. Simon has been writing about SAVI since 1965, and has delivered numerous workshops on SAVI and related topics at a variety of professional conferences.
Authors: Ben Benjamin, Amy Yeager and Anita Simons
Question: Why did you believe it was important to write Conversation Transformation?
Anita Simon: Conversation mismanagement is a main cause of organisational, marital, educational and social distress and pain. From my experience counselling in schools, business organisations and in marital and family settings, I know that the material in this book about verbal behaviour change is not readily available to the general public. When my co-authors and I were writing the book, I asked my 14-year-old nephew to read one of the chapters. His reaction was similar to hundreds of others I've worked with: "This is amazing!", he said. "Why don't they teach us things like this in school?"
I've seen how learning and mastering this information can help turn people's lives around.
Question: Who did you write Conversation Transformation for?
Anita Simon: Regardless of your profession, level of education or marital status, this book is for anyone who wants to communicate more effectively. These concepts outlined in this book will help people be heard and will also help people recognise when a conversation is going off track and what to do about it.
Question: What are the 6 Most Destructive Communication Patterns?
Anita Simon: We picked six frequently used communication behaviours that generate problem patterns: (yes-buts, negative predictions, mind readings, attacks, complaints and leading questions), to illustrate ways people get into serious difficulties due to their patterns of conversation. These patterns often become major sources of unnecessary fights and escalate misunderstandings.
Question: What methods are used to overcome these destructive patterns?
Anita Simon: This question gets to the heart of the book. Conversation Transformation is based on a theory that my colleague Yvonne Agazarian and I developed over 40 years ago. It's called SAVI (pronounced savvy) and is grounded, in part, on information theory. SAVI says that when we are having a conversation; we communicate information through two channels: an emotional channel and a topic channel. If either channel is ambiguous, contradictory, or redundant, then the information probably won't be heard accurately. The goal of the book is to help people understand how the patterns of verbal behaviour in a two-way conversation can be shifted by either party to improve communication.
Let's take an example of how a contradictory communication can cause problems. Yes-but statements send both a "yes" and a "no" in the same sentence. We are used to hearing yes-buts and you may not realise that when you use a yes-but behaviour like, 'I think your proposal is pretty good, but.…" you put your listener on the alert for a criticism. Yes-buts leave us focused on disagreement. To illustrate, take the contradictory statement "I like your shirt but I think you look better in green." Is the message "I like your shirt", or "I don't like your shirt"? This book helps the speaker learn to avoid making such problematic statements as well as helping you, as the listener, learn to respond so that you can ask for more information instead of getting into a fight.
The book teaches how you can change your usual verbal response behaviour in other problematic conversational situations such as when someone is attacking you, is complaining a lot, is negatively assuming out loud that a proposal you made won't work, or is mind-reading you incorrectly. Conversation Transformation does not give a prescription of only one way to solve communication problems; it presents a framework for you to choose both how to respond to others who are provoking you and also how to get your own messages heard. It gives you a framework for understanding and practicing multiple new ways to communicate so that you can be clear and non-contradictory. Effective communicating is not a spectator sport - it requires practice to turn these new skills into permanent habits. You wouldn't expect to become better at a sport just by watching it, so the book also includes guided practice sessions in each chapter to help you master these new skills.
It is our hope that this book will make the analysis of our verbal behaviour as common and important in our culture as the analysis of financial data and as gripping as the latest information on sports.
Question: What is SAVI?
Anita Simon: SAVI®, is an acronym for the System for Analysing Verbal Interaction . It is a method of organising all verbal behaviours into theoretically important groupings which allow anyone familiar with the system to be able to code and examine their own and others' verbal behavioural patterns. It's like taking an X-ray of conversation to see what's happening by revealing dysfunctional and helpful patterns while the people are talking with each other. What's important about SAVI is it shows how problems in communication are not the fault of a person, but are the fault of a particular communication pattern that is being used. The good news is whereas it's hard to change a person (our personalities, motivations, and attitudes are pretty stable), it is relatively easy to change a behaviour - say from attack to a truly open question. And that can make a world of difference.
Interview by Brooke Hunter