Twelve ways to say it right when it matters most

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By Lauren Cirigliano

Whether you’re trying to motivate a team, negotiate a contract, make a sale, ask for a raise, land a new job, or terminate an employee, the conversations you have will either help you succeed or undermine your goals.

Communication expert and leadership coach Shawn Kent Hayashi has spent more than two decades studying how the things people say impact their business and professional lives. In her book, Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say It Right When It Matters Most, Hayashi not only identifies the 12 most important types of conversations people have, but she shows readers how to reach their maximum potential by using these conversations effectively.

Foundations for every conversation


In order to communicate well you must first master three fundamentals, says Hayashi. These are:

  • Building emotional intelligence. “When you are aware of what you are feeling, you can begin to speak about it in a way that builds rapport,” explains Hayashi. Emotional intelligence is essential not only for understanding yourself, but for recognizing your emotional wake – the effect your words have on people. For example, at the end of a meeting, are team members angry because they think they haven’t been heard, or do they feel excited about what they’re working on?
  • Understanding workplace motivators. Figuring out what motivates you, and what motivates others, will help you build connections. Whether you’re trying to win a contract or gain permission for a flex-time arrangement, recognizing what drives those you’re seeking to convince will increase your chance for success. Hayashi discusses the six basic motivators, or values, that show up in the workplace, and how to identify them in yourself and your colleagues.
  • Recognizing and adapting to communication styles. Communication styles differ in many ways. Your boss may prefer to make decisions during a conversation, while someone else may like to mull things over. Some people think aloud. Others prefer to think things through alone. Hayashi has identified four distinct communication styles, and says that, by recognizing your own style and the styles of others, you can learn to adapt how you deliver information. Readers of Conversations for Change can take a free, self-assessment at to identify their personal communication style.


Using the 12 conversations


With these fundamentals in place, it becomes possible to tackle the twelve conversations. In Conversations for Change, Hayashi details each one, explaining when to use them and how to develop them, offering specific phrases to start each dialogue, and warning against common mistakes. Some people, she points out, will be naturally better at certain conversations than others. Hayashi’s concrete advice, practical tips, and dozens of examples of conversations done right will make it possible to become good at all of them. For example:

Conversation for connection: If you are attending a conference; interviewing for a job; meeting new coworkers, employees, or bosses; or working with a new client, a conversation for connection is in order. Hayashi advises asking open-ended questions and then really listening. “The biggest mistake professionals make in the workplace with regard to conversations for connection is that they either do not have them at all or they rush through them,” she writes. Without them, you lose out on the chance for an expanded network and new windows for opportunity.

Conversation for conflict resolution: When there’s chronic tension, anger, or resentment, it’s time for a conversation for conflict resolution. “When people are afraid of conflict and do not know how to handle differences of opinion, innovation does not occur,” writes Hayashi. The key to addressing conflict is to create a healthy discussion of differences in needs and wants which will lead to engaged, solution-focused, collective thinking. Hayashi warns against ignoring a conflict because it might go away or screaming, yelling, and bullying. “You might be surprised someone can do these things without being aware of them,” she notes. Good ways to get started are inviting the other person to share his or her perspective, and exploring areas of agreement as well as disagreement.

Conversation for appreciation: If you’re grateful for progress that has been made, or want to say thank you in a meaningful way, you need to show appreciation using language that will be most significant for the other person. Making people feel appreciated is vital for building momentum, says Hayashi. She details four basic ways of showing appreciation – affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service – and cautions against common errors, such as thanking one person for the efforts of a team, and not being specific about what is being appreciated. “When accomplishments are not acknowledged, tight, cold critical cultures are created,” she points out.

The other conversations include: Conversation for Creating New Possibilities, Conversation for Structure, Conversation for Commitment, Conversation for Action, Conversation for Accountability, Conversation for Breakdown, Conversation for Withdrawal and Disengagement, Conversation for Change, and Conversation for Moving On.

No matter where you are in your career, or what challenge you’re facing, there is a conversation you need to have. Eminently readable, Conversations for Change – along with the online assessment at – will give you the tools you need to have those conversations successfully, enabling you to grow your career or your business in brand new ways.

About Shawn Kent Hayashi:

Shawn Kent Hayashi is the founder of The Professional Development Group and author of five business communication books. Using an assessment-based approach, her company helps people improve their emotional intelligence, communication skills, build stronger relationships and teams, and make more effective presentations. She also helps clients apply the assessment methodology in their own organizations. Clients include Fortune 500 and mid-sized companies, universities, and entrepreneurial organizations. An Emotional Intelligence Certified Coach, Hayashi earned an M.S. in Organization Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania and holds many certifications in assessment analysis. She also serves on the boards of several professional organizations.

Reprinted with permission from

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