A Powerful Secret About Conversations and Relationships

Introduction from Alana:

Don GallagherOn Friday, I shared DJ Waldow’s “Secret Formula for Making Connections.”  Ready for another secret?  Today, it’s my pleasure to feature my dear friend, Don Gallagher.  Don is a thought leader in the areas of communications, personal effectiveness and the power of meaningful conversations.  An engineer by education, Don spent 25 years in engineering, marketing, sales and training roles with Deere and Company, but today he’s an independent, speaker, trainer, consultant and author based in Olathe, Kansas.   

Sometimes referred to as “that engineering soft skills guy,” Don’s focus is on helping individuals and groups to ratchet up their personal effectiveness and productivity. To better serve the engineering community that he has a special passion for, in July he founded ENGINEERINGCAREERLAUNCHER.com. It’s an online resource site that’s dedicated to being the “#1 source for straight talk, soft skills and support for aspiring engineers.”  As a non-engineer myself, I can promise it’s an amazing resource for you, too – engineer or otherwise! 

And now, sit back and enjoy a little straight talk with Don Gallagher… (as a special bonus option, you can watch a video of Don delivering this guest blog in its entirety which he prepared especially for the CLC community — I’m sure you’ll agree, he has a warm and engaging manner.  Enjoy!)


Guest post from Don Gallagher, Founder, ENGINEERINGCAREERLAUNCHER.com:

We’ve all had them. Those moments in ouBoysReducedr life where something magical happens. A shift takes place in our mind. In the blink of an eye we’re different. Our view of the world is different and we realize things will never be the same again.

That kind of magic happened to me in the fall of 1997, at a John Deere factory in a quaint little town in Wisconsin.

As a returning employee, I was attending a four-day workshop on personal effectiveness and productivity. We had just finished a coffee break and the instructor, Paul, headed into a brand new topic…relationships.

My first thought was, “Yea right, what can he teach me about relationships?” But I also wondered, ”What do I need to know about relationships?”

Very quickly, though, Paul proposed something I had never heard of or given thought to before. What he said immediately caught my attention. In fact, what he shared startled me in its simplicity and its power.

It surprised me because I was a guy (an engineer no less) who up until that time hadn’t given much thought to relationships. I was busy living my life in the way that I thought a 40-year old husband, father and son should live his life. Who had time to be thinking deeply about relationships?

But a story Paul told about the connection between the level of his conversations and the quality of his relationships with his two young kids is what startled me. In that moment, I realized that the relationships I had at the time with my three little boys were far from what they could be, and from what they should be.

The simple idea that Paul shared that day was this: The quality of any relationship can be defined by the conversations we’re having with the other person. He went on to narrow the idea a bit further by suggesting that we can quickly assess the quality of any relationship by looking at the last five conversations we’ve had with the other person.

He then scribbled a graphic on his flip chart that resembled a math equation. The equation revealed even more clearly how our relationships are equal to the sum of our conversations.

Paul was quick to point out that this simple, but incredibly powerful idea wasn’t his. It actually grew out of something he had seen in a book written by Professor Deborah Tannen from Georgetown University.

Professor Tannen studies conversations, with a special focus on gender differences. In Chapter 2 of her book titled, You Just Don’t Understand, she made the statement that “life is lived as a series of conversations.”

In hearing both Professor Tannen’s statement and Paul’s extension of her idea to relationships, I felt like the guy in the V-8 drink commercial. You know, he’s the one who gets bonked on the head, and then realizes he could have had a V-8.

That’s exactly how I felt. I realized in that moment that the reason my relationships with my three boys weren’t what they could be was because I wasn’t having the conversations with them that I needed to be having.

One of the wonderful things about this idea is that it tells us that if we aren’t happy with a particular relationship, all we need to do is to go to work on the very next conversation with that person. As our conversations improve, our relationship will follow in lock step.

Since that day in 1997, I’ve been on an incredible journey of learning how to build relationships one conversation at a time. I’m proud to be able to tell you that as a result, my relationships with my boys, my wife, and with my growing family have never been better. I’m a lucky guy for sure.

Lauren and DanReduced












Now that you know this special secret, I encourage you to begin building great relationships in your families, in your workplaces and out in the world everyday, one conversation at a time.

4 thoughts to “A Powerful Secret About Conversations and Relationships”

  1. Don,
    I really appreciated this post. I think that strong relationships are the key to living our best life. There can always improve on our relationships, but like you eluded to, it needs to be a conscious effort. Thanks for bringing up this important topic!

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