I strongly believe that you can’t win in the marketplace unless you win first in the workplace. If you don’t have a winning culture inside, it’s hard to compete in the very tough world outside.
– Douglas Conant, Chairman of Avon Products and former
CEO and President of the Campbell soup Company

A healthy and positive workplace culture is key to your success as an organization. But how do you cultivate an atmosphere that transforms a random group of co-workers into a team of allies who treat each other as family and motivate each other to always show up and do their best?

The answer, of course, is COMMUNICATION.

However, encouraging co-workers to communicate in an open, positive, and truthful manner isn’t always easy. As my friend Cliff Durfee points out, “Most communication resembles a Ping-Pong game in which people are merely preparing to slam their next point across.”

So how do you stop the constant volleying and get people to actually LISTEN to each other instead of only trying to score points?

Simple: with a Heart Talk!

A Heart Talk is a powerful communication process that creates a safe environment for a deep level of communication to occur – without fear of condemnation, unsolicited advice, interruption, or of being rushed. It’s an incredibly effective way to release any unexpressed emotions that get in the way of people being totally present to deal with the business at hand.

And it’s the best way I know to develop rapport, understanding, and intimacy among individuals in a group – and turn apparent opponents into true members of the same team.

When you introduce Heart Talks into your workplace culture…

1.  People are more mindful of each other’s feelings

Most people are so focused on what they’re doing and what’s happening to them, they often don’t stop to think how their words or actions might impact others.

Heart Talks encourage open sharing of feelings, giving team members deeper insight into what’s happening in their co-workers’ lives and how their words and actions are coming across. This encourages greater empathy, more mindful communication, and a deeper level of mutual respect in the workplace.

2. People don’t take things personally

When you cultivate an environment of open and honest communication, people are less likely to read implied negative meaning into other people’s words and actions. If someone is having a particularly stressful day and they say or do something that’s thoughtless or impatient, other coworkers will be able to understand that it’s not about THEM and won’t feel hurt or resentful about it.

3. People aren’t afraid to say what they really think about a project

Too often, employees will remain silent about problems they see in a project because they don’t want to rock the boat or be seen as being critical of management’s decisions. This often means that those who are closest to the ground and better able to anticipate problems don’t speak up. By encouraging open and honest communication, you make it safe for employees to say what they really think – instead of what they believe their managers want them to say.

This results in less time wasted on bad ideas and more time devoted to bringing successes to market faster.

4. You foster an atmosphere of collaboration over competition

When people open their hearts to each other, they bond at an extremely deep level.
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That kind of experience motivates you to care for the other person and wish the best for them.

A team whose members feel that way about each other can accomplish anything they set their minds to. They understand that a victory for the organization is a victory for all and leads to even better opportunities for everyone involved. And so they inspire each other to aim higher and achieve even better results.

5. You dramatically reduce turnover

People who work in an environment they love, with people they respect and whose company they truly enjoy, know they’ve hit the jackpot. They are very reluctant to leave their awesome job to pursue other opportunities. This allows you to grow a team whose long history together ensures they work like a well-oiled machine, and relieves you of the need to invest precious time, money, and resources into training new employees.

How to conduct a heart talk

A Heart Talk can be conducted with any size group of between two and ten people. Start by asking people to sit in a circle or around a table. Introduce the basic agreements, which include these:

  • Only the person holding “the heart” is allowed to talk.
  • You don’t judge or criticize what anyone else has said.
  • You pass the heart/object to the left after your turn, or say “I pass” if you have nothing to say.
  • You talk only about how you feel.
  • You keep the information that is shared confidential.
  • You don’t leave the Heart Talk until it’s declared complete. 
Keep passing the heart/object around the circle—multiple times if necessary—to ensure participants have more than one opportunity to share. If you have plenty of time, a Heart Talk completes naturally when the heart makes a complete circle without anyone having something to say.
  • Ask the group to agree to the guidelines, which are very important to make sure that the talk does not deteriorate and lose its value. Because no one is supposed to talk except for the person holding the object, it is often best to wait until the completion of the talk to remind people about certain agreements that need more attention. Another option is to have the agreements written down on paper or a whiteboard and to merely point to them if someone is getting too far off-track.
  • Go around the group at least once—with everybody getting one turn—or set a time frame (say fifteen minutes to thirty minutes; longer for more emotionally intense issues) and keep going around the group until the time runs out or nobody has anything more to say.
  • You can use any object to pass around—a ball, a paperweight, a book, anything that can be seen by the other participants. I have seen everything from a stuffed animal (a hospital staff), a baseball (a college baseball team), and a football helmet (a state championship football team) to a Native American talking stick (on a corporate river rafting trip).

What kind of results can you expect?

After you conduct a Heart Talk, you can expect the following results:

  • Enhanced listening skills
  • Constructive expression of feelings
  • Improved conflict resolution skills
  • Improved abilities to let go of resentments and old issues
  • Development of mutual respect and understanding
  • Greater sense of connection, unity, and bonding

The structure of a Heart Talk creates a safe, nonjudgmental space that supports the constructive—rather than the destructive—expression of feelings that, if left unexpressed, can block teamwork, synergy, creativity, innovation, and intuition, which are vital to the productivity and success of any venture.

As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and speaks around the world on this subject. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!

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