Chocolate Conversation — How to avoid misdirected messages making business meltdowns.

January 5, 2023
5 min read
Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

Some chocolates come in a box. Chocolate Conversations simply keep you from thinking out of the box. Other chocolates come in a wrapper. But when executives, managers and support staff don’t know how to unwrap Chocolate Conversations, the taste is more bitter than sweet.

The Making of a Chocolate Conversation

There’s a candy dish in our office coffee room filled with dark chocolate squares and peanut butter cups. 

I love the dark squares. The peanut butter cups are usually the staff’s chocolate of choice. They can have them; I’ll pass on those. But one day, my dark squares were gone! I was choco-crazed and let everyone know it. They looked baffled.

Apparently, it wasn’t ever clearly expressed by me or Shannon, responsible for chocolate inventory control that, “Okay everyone, here’s a candy dish and it’s going to be filled with different kinds of chocolate. Let it be known that the dark chocolate squares are only for the boss and she expects them to be there when she hits the dish. You can eat whatever other kind of chocolate you want, but keep your paws off those dark chocolate squares.”

Are You Having Chocolate Conversations?

Everyone has them—in business and in personal relationships. Chocolate Conversation is the code name for important exchanges that get misinterpreted and result in unintended consequences. Consuming too many Chocolate Conversations, like eating too much chocolate, leaves you feeling queasy.

Failing to challenge assumptions. Failing to take the time to have complete conversations. Failing to make sure your message is heard as you intended it. These factors all contribute to the Chocolate Conversations that leave communications in meltdown mode.

Recipe for a Chocolate Conversation

Chocolate conversations contain three ingredients: Worldviews, Standards and Concerns.

A Worldview is a set of beliefs we hold about ourselves—and even the world—based on our experiences. These perceptions shape the picture we carry around in our minds.

Standards are rules and guidelines that inform how we act in different situations. These are developed through our experiences and interactions with others over a lifetime. Our standards become our expectations. “Where are my chocolate squares?” When expectations are not met, we’re disappointed. 

Concerns arise from information filtered through our worldviews and standards. When we’re disappointed we complain. A complaint is an expressed concern, and underneath every complaint is an unmet need.

What’s Baked into Chocolate Conversations isn’t Healthy for People or Businesses

In my office, at the worldview level, we all like chocolate. Yet our standards are different. Dark Chocolate Squares for me. Peanut Butter Cups for others. By not clarifying how I felt about my stash in the candy dish, I set up a standard no one was aware of and expressed an unmet need that caught everyone off guard.

Misunderstandings and different points of view that result from Chocolate Conversations lead to misdirection, poor execution and loss of opportunity. Not clarifying a Chocolate Conversation can lead to failed mergers and relationships—in both business and life.

We need to change the conversation.

Conversations are Easier Said than Done

You’re probably thinking, “What are you talking about? I’m a savvy business executive. I know how to say what I want.” 

You’re a seasoned communicator. You’re capable of conveying corporate missions, marketing plans and marching orders to any size audience—in person or in PowerPoint… via email or conference call… at a meeting or an event.

So, how come what you intend to happen as a result of your conversations, too often, doesn’t happen? Why wasn’t your vision transformed into reality? Where did things fall short in reaching—or even getting closer to—your goal? 

Chances are, you’re conducting Chocolate Conversations, which are the wrong conversations to have if you want to get anywhere, or get anything done.

Use Leadership as a Chocolate Substitute for Conversations

If you crave a solution for Chocolate Conversations, substitute the word ‘Leadership’ for ‘Chocolate.’ 

Now you’re ready for a Leadership Conversation. How many different interpretations would people in your company have about what makes or defines a good leader? 

Don’t stop there! How many different standards surface when leaders of your company put new strategies or change initiatives into motion?

Change Starts with Changing the Conversation

Leaders can’t afford to ignore Chocolate Conversations. For example, at the worldview level, a healthcare plan that’s affordable, inclusive and available to everyone sounds pretty good. Who wouldn’t want that? But when you get down to how that plan impacts certain age groups, benefits, and individuals obligated to participate, people’s standards kick in and ‘pretty good’ suddenly doesn’t seem so good anymore.

When people’s standards aren’t met, concerns bubble up. Before you know it, concerns are being expressed from all directions. All these concerns are declaring an unmet need.

Learn How to Unwrap Your Chocolate Conversations

Think beyond a particular worldview to how things will play out. Verbalize standards and address any concerns right from the start, or as soon as they surface. Take the time to have complete conversations. Make sure your message is heard as you intended it. Then, watch how things actually start moving along faster and pushing you closer to your intended outcome.

Like any kind of chocolate, it’s impossible to completely avoid Chocolate Conversations. But being aware of what causes them will help you cut down on them. 

Your leadership—and the change you are driving—depends on it.

Hungry for more? Order your copy of The Leadership Conversation on Amazon or read more about Rose and her new book on the leadershipconversationbook.com.

You can also snag a copy of her first book, The Chocolate Conversation.

Rose Fass is a founder and CEO of fassforward consulting group. She has the unique gift to take a mess, and quickly put in place effective steps to reach an outcome. She is a natural facilitator who can connect with all types of individuals at all levels of an organization from the C-suite to people closest to the work.

Eugene Yoon is a graphic designer and illustrator at fassforward. She is a crafter of Visual Logic. Eugene is multifaceted and works on various types of projects, including but not limited to product design, UX and web design, data visualization, print design, advertising, and presentation design.

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