Basic rules for conversation

Respond vs. React

When we react we lose choice in our actions and often force those around us to in turn react.

Ask Questions

Asking questions instead of making statements allows you to gather information about your conversation partner’s opinion and self. This also causes this person to feel heard making it more likely that they will not get defensive or angry.

Process and Content

How we say things is often times more important than what we say. Screaming “I Love You” at someone isn’t getting the message of love across.

Frame the Conversation

Avoid slipping into tough conversations. Frame the conversation before entering into the content. Be sure that your counterpart is ready to have the same conversation you are allowing them to properly interpret the message.

Re-Process Bad Process

Simply apologizing after failing to communicate sometimes is not enough. The best way to reconcile is to apologize, acknowledge where you went wrong, how you should have communicated, and if possible the root cause for your poor communication.

Come to the Line

Coming to the line means being IN the conversation. Overly asserting yourself, aggressive tone of voice, and physically getting into someone’s face is crossing the line. Retreating or fleeing the conversation is leaving the line. Coming to the line means respecting the other party with your language, tone of voice, and posture during conversation.

Above the Line

Not personalizing comments, or taking personal shots during the conversation is remaining above the line.


The thoughts and attitudes you have about someone can often dictate how you speak to them. Beware of negative attributions and how they can skew your tone, content, and posture towards someone while communicating. Strive for positive attributions of those around you.

Avoid Triangulation

When addressing an issue with someone, address it directly with them. Do not address the issue with someone else and expect them to translate the problem to the person you actually have a problem with.

Say It Once

Overly repeating a point can cause distress in your conversation partner. Learn to say something once and let it be heard.

Own your Personal Balance Sheet

Acknowledging that you have positive qualities AND negative qualities is key to humble conversation. Acknowledging that you only have positive qualities means that you will not be able to consider that you’ve done anything wrong in conversation. This will keep you from being able to process feedback.