Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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The Meeting of the Minds – Part II


Conversation enables agreement and strengthens bonds.

First, Happy Thanksgiving week if you are in the United States!

I am excited to share this piece with you today, not because it is a holiday week or because I think the content is earth-shattering. Instead, because the topic is critical yet seems simplistic and could be overlooked! Notably, this is part 2 of a previous piece titled The Meeting of the Minds – Part I – BLOG – www.akesatia.com
Perhaps when you read the line above – conversation enables agreement, you thought: Yep! Seems obvious, Aké! I hope we have a little more to work with here!
Well, let’s keep at it, and time will tell!

The Missing Art!

Ironically, though we know conversing is necessary and valuable, the art of conversation is a code we have not cracked – collectively. Perhaps because we assume that only those born with the gift of gab can persuade minds and win hearts. For this reason, when we are impressed with a speaker, we remark: She has a way with words like no other, and words flow effortlessly from her! Or when we listen to our favorite leader motivating their team at the start of the fiscal year, we say: He always knows what to say, and how he says it gets to me every time! How does he do it?
In the above instances, we might assume the ability to communicate effectively came about effortlessly. However, though some are born gifted in oration, any truly charismatic and authentic speaker would tell you they spend considerable time and effort practicing how they preach and what they preach!

Also, in the above instances, the speakers do not intend to engage in a dialogue. Instead, they aspire to inspire – captivate the mind, stir the heart, and propel action through a monologue.

A new “art form”!

Unlike a speech, in a worthwhile conversation, the goal is to reach the heart and mind through dialogue. Unfortunately, the ability to converse is not a forté that is acquired fortuitously. It takes work! But, amidst frivolously scrolling our phones as another pours out their heart, abruptly interrupting others, and dodging uncomfortable subjects, we have mastered a new art: The art of botching conversations! Indeed, as was revealed in a 2022 survey, one thing is clear: Americans struggle to communicate well. Study: Americans are becoming less effective communicators (preply.com) 

However, no need to despair! As we all know, awareness is the first step to driving change, and as a society, we realize that communication is not our strong suit. But do not take it from me! Feel free to check out the article linked above. 

A common deficiency

Now that we know that having productive dialogues is not a collective strength, what can we do about it? Furthermore, why is it such a challenge? Conversations can be challenging, especially when we do not believe our opinions will be readily accepted or welcomed. In such instances, we may avoid the discussion altogether or say whatever we want, as hurtful as it may be, and then ask for forgiveness, not permission.

While the approaches above may seem to work sometimes, building trust and cultivating meaningful relationships requires conversation. – This begs the question: what is a conversation?

Conversation: A critical exchange!

Conversation is an exchange of ideas, thoughts, observations, feelings, and opinions.

As humans, we know the value of exchanges. Also, we are familiar with exchanging and have been for a stretch! How so? You may ask! Back in the day, circa 6000 BC, the Mesopotamians introduced Bartering, i.e., a trading system of exchanging goods. Later, the Phoenicians adopted the bartering system, and the Babylonians improved it. Recently, some may recall times when neighbors cheerfully exchanged carrots for potatoes and a smile! 

Today, we are most accustomed to exchanging money for goods or services. But one of the most critical exchanges does not entail goods or money. It is an exchange woven into the human fiber, and sometimes, it is a kind swap, but other times, it is anything but kind! – It is the exchange of words!
Did you know that in some cultures, one of the most devastating things that can happen to a child is for their mother to speak an unkind word about their future? Because they believe what a mother professes about her child will come true because words carry power. 

Leveraging power for good!

If someone has hurled an insult at you or conveyed a life-infusing message, you have experienced the power of words. And as we know, true power is not a self-serving commodity. Power is most valuable when it benefits others. Therefore, our opportunity is to use the power of words for good. 
Now you may be thinking: Aké, this sounds charming and all. But when I think of power, I think of bench pressing my body weight, not talking or listening. I believe words are cheap, so I am more into action! What does conversing have to do with power?
To that, I say good luck at the gym! 😉 And I invite you to take a quick trek down memory lane…

Can you remember the last conversation you had that you felt was great? Where were you? Who were you chatting with? What were you discussing? What value came out of the conversation?
I have a hunch that if you were answering these questions with the other participant in the conversation, you would give the same responses on the first three questions. But on the fourth question about the value of the conversation, your answers could be different because value is subjective. Therefore, if we want another to value an exchange with us, we must consider what they find valuable and be willing to compromise or give away power. 

Understandably, this statement might rub you the wrong way! – if you assume the one who gives away power is the one who loses. But this line of thinking is a hindrance to building meaningful relationships.

To make this more palpable, I will share a story about an experience that provided many life lessons!

A bumpy exchange!

One of my first roles in my career was a client-facing one where I provided talent development services to an organization of highly technical talent. I was excited to work with the client organization because the members were known for their brilliance. However, I was also nervous because they had a reputation for being tough nuts to crack. Worse yet, they were proud of it and saw no reason to soften their rough edges! 

After working with them for a couple of months, on a frosty day in Winter, one of the directors requested to meet with me. He had been in the organization for a decade and was highly dedicated to his work but uninterested in pleasing anyone! On a particular Wednesday, after a team meeting, he stated that his team had unique needs and wanted to clue me in. Given his reputation as a demanding curmudgeon, I suspected he would ask for more resources. Therefore, I connected with my leaders to understand how much wiggle room we had. 

The following Friday, we agreed to meet at his office, and at 3:30 p.m., I walked in. Once I took my seat, we exchanged pleasantries for what seemed like 30 seconds, and he launched into a tirade! – Essentially, he wanted more resources allocated to his team, which required more investment from my organization. Knowing that was a no-go, I explained why we could not accommodate his requests. Expectedly, he was unhappy with that answer and chose to respond rudely. Disturbed by his harsh tone, I calmly ended the meeting and left his office.

A pleasant surprise

Immediately, I rushed to my office and narrated the experience to my manager. – She was disturbed and expressed compassion for my less-than-pleasant experience. – Later that evening, as I drove home, I pondered the experience and thought… The Grinch must have come to town with Dr. Seuss this year as I just spent time with him. 😉

Anticipating an impending disaster at the workplace, I drearily walked into my office on Monday and later received a pleasant surprise. At 10:30 a.m., a bouquet of exotic flowers and a handwritten card was delivered. The director’s leader heard what transpired during our meeting on Friday and decided to smooth any ruffled feathers. Hence, the kind gesture. – By the looks of things, all was well, and some even said I had won!
Indeed, with the deluge of support coming my way, I seemed to have the upper hand or the power, so to speak! However, I did not feel like I won anything because my relationship with that director had a gaping hole of disunity.

The Power of conversation

Desperate for wise counsel, I called a close friend at work and quickly narrated the incident. In her classic calming manner, she stared at me with compassionate eyes. Then, she said: That sounds terrible, Aké. I am sorry you went through that. What do you plan to do about it? I said I was unsure what to do but was glad I was not to blame. Then, my friend posed a poignant question! She said: You have senior leadership support and seem to hold all the power now, which probably feels good because it is validating. But this might also make him afraid and no longer forthcoming. Would you want to carry all the power if it costs you the relationship?
I responded: Absolutely not! What do you think I should do?
She said: It sounds like you need to have a candid conversation where you both speak and listen. 

Relieved to be understood and grateful for her thoughtful input, I agreed with her suggestion, and we role-played to prepare for the conversation.

The Value of conversation

Convinced my friend gave me sage advice, I scheduled another meeting with the director. Though I had no idea or expectation of how it would go, I had a singular intent – establish unity.
To my surprise, as soon as I walked into his office, he looked apprehensive, as if he was unsure whether I would tell him off and rub his misstep in his face!
 However, like many, I do not believe in kicking a man when he’s down – as the saying goes! Feeling embarrassed, he humbly apologized for his behavior during our last meeting. And I sought to understand his current business challenges and consider creative solutions. Then, we aligned on a go-forward plan.

In case you are wondering, after our tête-à-tête, his personality did not change.  He continued to be rough around the edges. However, he was noticeably more considerate and thoughtful with me. Over time, we learned to exchange perspectives, compromise, and partner to meet goals. – This is the immeasurable opportunity conversation provides!

Over the holidays, may we take the opportunity to revitalize our relationships by practicing the art and skill of conversation! To quote a charismatic leader and captivating speaker: Take care of yourself and take care of each other.

For you and to you,



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