Constructive Influence

. . insist on taking part in what is healthy, generous, and responsible.
Stand up, speak out, and when necessary fight back.
Get down off the fence and lend a hand, grab a-hold,
be a citizen – not a subject

—Edward Abbey.


There is a question that is commonly asked in our workshops: What if I am the only person in the room who knows there’s a sweet spot? Can I still make a difference? The answer is yes. One person with high conversational capacity can have a demonstrably positive effect on the way a conversation flows, a meeting unfolds, or a decision is made. But it takes a higher degree of skill.

In this workshop participants will learn that while they can’t control every variable in a conversation or meeting, they can choose to be a constructive variable. Even in high-pressure, high-stakes circumstances – and even when others are behaving poorly – they can have far more productive influence, and play a more positive role, by improving how they engage with others.


The psychologist Robert Kegan said that an organization is a community of discourse, and that leadership is about shaping the nature of the discourse. When we’re striving to be a constructive variable in an important conversation or meeting, that’s exactly what we’re doing – shaping conversations in a more balanced, purpose-driven, and effective direction. When there’s insufficient candor in a meeting to solve a problem, for example, we can engage in a way that increases it. If there’s a lack of curiosity in the meeting, and it’s at risk of escalating into an argument, we can engage in a way that de-escalates the conversation and encourages people to refocus on the issue they’re trying to address.

This is an important role to play. Our organizations and our communities are in desperate need of people willing and able to do this – people who can help us build healthier teams, work relationships, and organizations, and keep important conversations on track even in stressful, turbulent circumstances.

But making a constructive difference is harder than it sounds. It takes more than good intentions – it takes the capacity to align our behavior with our intentions, even when our defensive emotional reactions are working to pull them apart. Building that ability requires two things: an actionable framework, and ample practice. This workshop will review and strengthen participants’ knowledge of the framework and help them create a tailored approach to the practice.


In this unique workshop, participants will learn how to build their personal conversational capacity so they’re able to shape conversations in a healthier, more constructive, more purposeful direction. More specifically, they’ll learn to

  • Redefine what it means to exert influence and explore practical ways to exercise this powerful new frame when it counts.
  • Influence more learning – or to be more precise – influence the patterns of dialogue so they generate more learning. They’ll learn to make every conversation or meeting smarter because they are in the room.
  • Strengthen their “Do it Yourself” psychological safety so they’re able to perform effectively even in conditions that don’t feel safe.
  • Create a virtuous cycle of skill-building, whereby their work to make a constructive difference provides the practice for building their personal conversational capacity, and their heightened conversational capacity makes them more effective in their efforts to make a constructive difference.
  • Boost the overall conversational capacity of a conversation or meeting. Even when they’re the only person in a meeting who knows about the sweet spot, participants will learn to help other people work in the sweet spot, or move closer to it, simply by virtue of how they’re participating in the conversation.
  • Increase the level of candor when people are beating around the bush and not talking openly and clearly about issues that matter.
  • Intervene in situations that are overheating in a way that encourages the conversation back to a more curious, balanced, learning-focused pattern of dialogue.
  • Play a consistently constructive role even in challenging circumstances, and even when others are deliberately trying to make it difficult.
  • Take more active responsibility for improving the quality of a conversation when they may not have any help in doing so.
  • Maintain an affirmative bias in challenging circumstances that would swamp the optimism and enthusiasm of most people.
  • Adopt new strategies for strengthening their competence in each domain of practice in the conversational capacity discipline: awareness, mindset, and skill set.



This course places a sharp focus on how one person in a high pressure, high stakes situation can – when all the weight is on their shoulders – increase the conversational capacity of a meeting or conversation so it’s more productive, learning-focused, and purpose-driven.