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The spoken word always has a greater impact than the written word because you can hear and see the emotions of the speaker. All too often written words are misconstrued because you can’t see or empathetically feel the other person’s emotions behind the words. How often have you sent an email or text only to have the recipient snap back at you? While the written word can be an effective tool at work, it’s the spoken word that can enact greater change. Here’s how inspiring conversations at work take everyone in a new direction without the fights and strife or negative verbal assaults.

Address Difficult Topics in Target Meetings

Go beyond the annual training meetings to address difficult topics. For example, employees who want to interact on a personal and social level should not be harassed for making that choice. Have an open discussion with everyone on the floor about dating fellow employees. Make sure everyone can have their say, everyone who wants to be heard is heard, and discuss the ground rules for having this discussion before it begins. Planning or “designing” these discussions ahead of time keeps the conversation flowing and doesn’t bottleneck it up in volatile emotions. It also resolves certain issues others in the office might have about the topic of discussion.

Set Aside More Than Enough Time to Voice the Subject

Cutting off a speaker or stopping the meeting just because time is up doesn’t help enact change. If you are going to create meaningful dialogue at work, you have to give the meeting more than adequate time. Devote an entire afternoon to it if need be.

Some subjects of concern to employees may take more or less time. If more time is needed beyond the entire afternoon, arrange a second meeting on the same subject a week later. People can choose to attend or not, depending on whether or not they felt they were adequately heard at the first meeting. The process is going to take time to learn, but it’s invaluable to building a well-knit team.

Three Approaches to Use as Conversation Starters

The best conversations are the ones other people relate to or have some emotional stake in. For that reason, use a personal story about yourself and “a time when…”, or use a story involving others and a problem you encountered. You may also use a story that requires immediate action and resolution, and this is perhaps the best approach of all to make everyone speak up about things at work.