• Westwood International

Greg Zlevor’s 5 Magical Phrases to Keep the Conversation Going



At Westwood International, we see firsthand that when people experience true growth from within, they lead with passion, heart, and purpose. The key to unlocking growth with your leaders is establishing connections — connection with oneself, the team, and the common goal. By 2025, it’s expected that five generations will be represented in the workplace, and millennials will comprise 75% of the working population. The outcome? A workplace filled with differing beliefs, values, and communication styles, all affecting the way that we build connections.


Whether you strongly connect with another employee or have differing views, the key to unlocking connections and having clear communication is gathering more information. Not sure where to begin? Start by creating spaces that allow people to open up, and genuinely share what’s on their mind. Most importantly, listen to what they have to say.


Here are Greg Zlevor’s, Founder and President of Westwood International, Five Magical Phrases to keep the conversation going.


1. Gather More Information

When someone says something you disagree with, why fight it right away with phrases like, “yes, but?” Instead, try saying, “what else?” or “what information leads you to that conclusion?” The more you ask open-ended questions, the more information you receive. In the end, it not only allows you to understand them better, but it allows you to influence them or direct the next steps.


2. Keep the Conversation Open After Someone Says, “No.”

If you find yourself in situations where you are trying to get someone to do something, and someone says “no,” another magic phrase is “under what conditions?” For example, “great – you said you didn’t want to do it, and I understand that, so tell me, under what conditions would you consider this?” This is a great way to allow you to better understand where they are coming from and gain insight into what is driving their decision.


3. Create Space for People to Open Up

The phrase “I’m curious” keeps the conversation going. It’s an approachable way to open something up without being judgemental and allows people to share. For example, “I’m curious, what do you like about your job?” or “I’m curious, when this happened to you, what were your feelings or thoughts?” It’s a non-judgmental way to help people open up and it creates space for you to listen and support.


4. Empower Educated Guesses

Do you have team members that when you pose a question, they are quick to say, “I don’t know” without taking a stab at answering? Try challenging them by saying, “take a guess.” For example, if someone says, “I’m not sure” in response to a question, try saying, “okay – got it. But try taking a guess,” and see what ideas come up. This is an effective way to challenge someone's mind and empower them to share the ideas in their head. For this phrase to work well, it’s essential to welcome all ideas, and set the norm that work is a “no bad ideas'' zone.


5. Continue the Conversation

As mentioned earlier, the key to these magical phrases is that they allow you to gather more information. And for that to be successful, you need to keep the conversation going. If you feel like the participant has more to say, repeat the last two to three words that you heard the other person say. For example, if someone says, “The workload this past week has been difficult.” You can respond with, “oh yeah, it was difficult?” As a result, they feel heard, and it clears the path for them to easily continue sharing.


Are you looking for more great tips? Check out our Leadership Library for a plethora of tips, resources, and more!


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