• Mark Hallander

Become better at conversations with the REAL framework

A conversation is so much more than an interaction between people. It’s about creating trust, acknowledging differences in profiles, and getting your point across – all while listening sincerely with a purpose to understand. Easier said than done. In this post, I will take you through conversational techniques and present a framework to adopt in training your conversational skills.

#interpersonalcommunication #conversation #REALframework #DISC


In this post you will learn:


The starting point of great conversations

Engaging, value-adding dialogue doesn’t just happen. It takes two invested parties, a willingness to listen, understand and take the conversation to the ideal state. In doing so, you can generally refer to two different ways of communicating: You can advocate (you convey information to the receiver) or investigate (you listen to understand information).


Your profile has a huge say in your approach to either one, as introverts tend to investigate more – sitting back, listening, asking questions, reflecting – while extroverts want to engage in conversation, think out loud, share their ideas and learn through putting everything into words.


So, reflect on your own tendency in conversation: Are you advocating or investigating? Finding the right balance is key, as speaking too much or not at all, will leave you and your counterpart empty-handed.


The REAL conversation – a framework for better dialogue

With this premise in mind, let’s build another layer into your interpersonal communication toolbox. I came across the REAL framework at a webinar hosted by Implement Consulting Group, where we discussed different communication challenges that most of us encounter on a day-to-day basis.


The framework emphasizes four main elements (with acronyms R, E, A, L) that are present in the best conversations. They apply to all types of conversation – whether you are small talking with your uncle, or discussing business-critical decisions with your manager. They are:


  • Relation: Not surprisingly, the relational aspect of conversations has a huge say in the outcome. So, you need to find your inner investigator, as being sincerely interested in the other person and curious to understand their perspective is key. A great conversation is much more than words and eye contact. It’s about trying to create a relationship, where trust is mutual. You should feel safe to share what's on your mind – even if it makes you vulnerable – and thinking of it as a balanced relationship will help.

  • Engage: That being said, you also need to set the direction in the conversation about something that matters. Don't waste time dancing around the core of what you want to talk about. It's healthy to challenge, be brave, and advocate for your opinion. Try to create the right energy in the conversation and consider your body language, as it makes up 55% of your overall communication. You must be able to bring difficult matters into play, but take account of other people in the process.

  • Acknowledge: Being acknowledgeable in a conversation revolves around your ability to see strengths in the other person. To focus on the positive aspects and what works. Having basic respect for the other person - whether you agree or disagree. If you tell people that they are bad, they will be. It’s self-reinforcing. If you think and express something positive about people, then people grow, they become more motivated and perform better.

  • Listen: Finally, being present in a conversation is easily achieved through listening. Not just listening to answer but listening to understand. A great listener is someone who wants to understand other's perspectives and reflect on them. If we feel threatened, our ability to listen disappear - so keep the respectful dialogue and insist on understanding, then the conversation will be better.


DISC profile insight: What your profile means for conversations

In continuation of the REAL framework, I want to briefly touch upon another great assessment tool used by various organizations to improve teamwork, communication, and productivity in the workplace. DISC profile analysis covers four different personalities:


Dominant: Profiles who are confident and fixed upon accomplishing results. They are purposeful, demanding, determined, competitive, and strong-willed.

Influence: Open people, who emphasize relationships and affecting others. Hence, they are social, inspirational, convincing, emotional, pleasant, and dynamic people.


Steady: They are dependable and want to cooperate with sincerity. As a profile, they are therefore democratic, thoughtful, patient, engaging, and relaxed.


Conscientious: Wants to deliver quality, accuracy, and competency. These people are structured, detail-oriented, systematical, formal, skeptical, and well-founded.

DISC profile

That obviously says a lot about how you communicate, but also how you should approach other people in conversation. I always found it helpful to look at the profiles like this: Personalities with dominant or conscientious traits are often more task-oriented, so they want to be approached with results, details, structure and no too many loose, hard-to-implement ideas without data. On the other hand, influencing and steady profiles are more people-oriented, so be accommodating and consider, who people are influenced in the process. Furthermore, profiles who are large in dominant or influencing traits tend to be more outgoing - often more extroverted people with presence - while conscientious and steady profiles are more withdrawn.


Hopefully, you can see yourself in some of these profiles. It’s not all black and white, but we do tend to behave as one or two of the profiles. You can find your profile here.

Conversation traps to avoid

If we apply this knowledge to conversations, we get some valuable insights. Let’s go through some common scenarios to avoid in conversation, which is based on your specific profile.


The problem trap

If you are a critical thinker and very quality assured, you will eventually look for errors. Conscientious people are very problem-focused, which makes them great at deconstructing complex issues, but also very critical when it comes to new ideas. And when you only have an eye for what doesn’t work – becoming too critical – it can consume the energy in a conversation.


The execution trap

This trap is very much apparent on dominant profiles. Someone determined and quick on the decision-making tends to be too obsessed with the next 3 steps ahead, which makes them bad a listening, as they are not present in the moment. Even more, they can forget to acknowledge other people, which ultimately hurts conversation.


The expert trap

An expert is very inside-out. Someone with influencing characteristics can be bad at listening and forget to recognize the views of others, because hey – they are the expert. Although they very much emphasize the relationship, they can become too proud of their own professionalism.


The consideration trap

Finally, the consideration trap is very common in steady profiles, as they are good listeners, but not necessarily good at engaging and having their say - especially when it’s difficult. The downside of being too considerate is that they too often let others take control. They become passengers instead of being in the driver's seat. And it can be reinforced by a victim role, so they must take responsibility for themselves and dare to engage in conversation.


In a nutshell

To sum it all up:

  • Make sure to find the right balance between advocating and investigating communication

  • Practice relational, engaging, acknowledging, and listening traits (REAL framework) to create the best fundament for great conversation

  • Understand your own DISC-profile to know how you come across and to improve communication with others

  • Avoid the most common communication traps associated with your specific profile