Preparing for important interactions is one of the most valuable habits you can establish. It's your best bet for making those conversations successful.
Now it's time to take a look at the five critical dimensions of every important conversation.
I call these dimensions, "The W's":
- Who? - Obviously, every interaction you have takes place between yourself and at least one other person. Who is this other person? Preparing means taking everything I know about her/him into account. To do so, I'll have to use my knowledge about this person—my intellect. I'll also want to reflect on my feelings about her/him—using my emotions to inform my impressions. Finally, I'll want to use my creative imagination to fill in a complete picture of who this person is. Thoroughness here will pay great dividends later.
- Why? - Every important interaction takes place in a bigger context; we're in always relationships for a reason. Why, specifically, do you and the other(s) have a relationship? What's the relationship's fundamental purpose? To some degree, every important conversation needs to tie back to the relationship's purpose; it's reason for existing. Consider this, too, intellectually, emotionally and creatively.
- What? - The "agenda" (either written down and formal or implicit and informal) for this conversation. What are you (and they) trying to achieve by the end of this interaction? This is often the most obvious factor that we use to determine how successful any interaction is. Again, think beyond the intellectual reasons to emotional and creative factors.
- Where? - The setting for the interaction establishes its cultural context. Are you having a meeting in your boss' office or coffee at Starbucks with your best friend? Where an interaction will take place is important. Context changes everything about behavior. What's comfortable in one setting is awkward in another. Context has intellectual, emotional and creative implications.
- When? - The old adage still holds: "timing is everything." Think about the timing of your interaction on both a micro and macro scale. What time of day, month, year will your conversation take place? What are the implications (intellectually, emotionally, creatively)? Where are you and the other(s) in the history of your relationship? How many other important interactions have you had? What does that history tell you about the one you're preparing for?
Concentrating on these five areas in anticipation of important conversations can make an enormous difference in your success.
Now that we've gone through the fundamentals of the Prepare To Succeed toolkit, we can begin looking at how to use the tools to prepare for important interactions. Each of the W's will be explored in detail in future as we go through the preparation process and look at some of the things that make it harder to parepare than to "just wing it."
How do you prepare for important interactions?
What does your experience tell you about improving your success?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.