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The Give and Take of Conversation

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

6-minute read

I am a fan of Adam Grant. I appreciate and use a number of his philosophies in my work. One of his key messages that comes to mind for this post is Givers and Takers. If you haven’t seen his Ted Talk, take time to watch it now.

Communication is at the heart of relationships

Relationships are core to my personality, my brand and my work. I have begun to worry that our drive for performance and results is driving conversation and relationships away from well rounded and productive interactions. Relationships are not one sided or one perspective. When you share on social media, this is an example of where you can express yourself and choose to hear what you engage on. It can be one sided and it can be influenced by the opinion of the person who owns the post. Another communication style is the heavy reliance on the tell management, and I intentionally did not use leadership (The One Thing You Need For Growth) for people management and results. If we take it from another perspective, email, video calls, texting and phone calls all potentially contribute to limiting communications and relationships.

Are you a giver or a taker?

I have been part of, either directly or through second hand, conversation situations that are very one sided. One person dominates, i.e. one person is Taking The Floor, while one person doesn’t get asked for their input or to share. The conversation feels one sided. Or as Adam Grant puts it, you’ve been speaking with a taker. I’ve done some experimentation to test what’s happening in our relationships to see if there are situations where a conversation can happen without truly engaging both participants. I used questions as a gauge of engagement. I was part of several conversations where I was not asked a single question. These conversations have me thinking more on givers and takers and how we are evolving in our conversations with one another.

Our communication capabilities

Are you listening or hearing?

I think we are all guilty of being in hearing mode rather than listening. Great relationships need all participants to be listening, really listening.

I had an introductory call with a CEO last week. He showed up as a giver. We spent a few minutes chatting through how we were introduced and what our conversation should be about. His first question was: “Tell me about yourself and your work.” It would have been so easy to take this window and begin to share. I knew that our best conversation needed me to make our call not about me but about his company and his business performance. My response: “Before I do, tell me a little more about your company. Tell me about what you’re working on and what’s important for our conversation.” He knew exactly what I was doing and commented that he did often like to turn the floor to others and wasn’t consistent in making calls focused on him and his company. He was appreciative that I turned the attention back to him. Our conversation was very engaging and relevant. It was productive, relationship building and at the end, we knew exactly what the next step was. (Please note: this conversation approach is not solely about being a giver, it’s also a very good strategic selling skill.) My turning of the conversation back to my potential client was a branding moment; he was able to experience my style and approach to working with clients. Our relationship building developed.

What’s your style?

"By personality, experience and company culture,

we all have unique engagement styles."

What’s one word that describes your communication style? What word do you want people to use to describe your communication?

See the self-assessment at the end of this article for advice on confirming if those around you agree with your own assessment.

If you were to look at my leadership profile, you’d see that I like to figure things out and can handle lots of information. While that sounds good for leadership, what it can mean is that I’m not always the best listener. I can be in my head and have already moved 3 steps ahead and missed information or body language that could modify my thinking. Because I know that about myself, I work on being flexible in my personality style to ensure that I don’t show up in a way that’s not the best for conversations. This has happened through self-awareness, a focus on personal brand and a high desire to be truly focused on my clients and relationships.

Yes, being your best self can be tiring work and at times it may mean it will take you longer to realize an outcome. I believe in taking a long-term approach to relationships and results. Great leadership, relationships and communication are foundations to realize your best potential and results.

Find out what your style is

Once you’ve read this post and done the self assessment, I’d like you to sit back and watch several conversations and to watch for the givers and takers. Who is showing up: givers, takers or matchers?

What’s the dynamic?

Finally, keep checking in on your best leadership presence with the question of Would you follow you? Contact us to do your self-assessment about your interpersonal skills:


Lisa W. Haydon is the President and Founder of Pivotal Coaching Inc. She left her comfortable corporate career several years ago to follow her passion of helping people realize their potential and companies to realize high performance. Lisa is a growth focused entrepreneur, leadership development consultant and certified executive coach. To her clients, she brings business experience with prestigious corporations and continuous education. Lisa’s work in business operations and B to B sales expertise allowed her to create a differentiated coaching model and client experience. Lisa and Pivotal Coaching are known for 1:1 and cohort Programs in leadership development and sales effectiveness.

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