The 3 levels of conversation

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I have already introduced Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ), developed by Judith E. Glaser in a previous POST.

Today, I want to zoom in on a specific theme which is the different levels of a conversation.

We can differentiate 3 main levels of conversations:

  • Level 1Transactional (Tell and Ask), which is basically an exchange of information. The intention is to inform and to confirm what we know. We listen to protect; the trust is low. With a healthy mindset, we exchange information, we validate what we know, but with an unhealthy mindset or if we are unaware, we might fall into the Tell-Sell-Yell syndrome, with a tendency to tell more than to listen or ask.
  • Level 2Positional (advocate and Inquire), where we exchange power to convince. The intention is to defend what we know. We listen to Accept or Reject; the trust is conditional. With a healthy mindset, there is an opportunity for influence and to seek win-win solutions but with an unhealthy mindset or lack of awareness, we might fall into what is called “Addicted to being right”, with an overuse of telling and asking questions only to persuade. We are trying to convince the other person we are right and are not open to any other point of view. And let’s be honest, this happens very frequently.
  • Level 3: Transformational (Share and Discover), where we exchange energy and co-create. The intention is to discover what we don’t know. We listen to connect; the trust is high. With a healthy mindset, we hold the space to explore uncharted territory, we ask questions for which we have no answer. If we don’t pay attention though, the pitfall is inaction and more ideation than execution.

In every level, there is a release of oxytocin (bonding hormone) when we are in healthy conversations and mindset and release of cortisol (stress hormone) when we fall into the downside of it. For instance, an “Addicted to being right” behavior triggers high level of cortisol, and the level 3 is the one that enable the release of the highest level of oxytocin which will create the bonds and the trust that will move the team or company forward.

These distinctions are incredibly powerful when it comes to improving communication skills in a team. So, my invitation for you is to become more and more aware of the level of conversation you are in at work (with colleagues, managers, direct reports or clients), at home, in sport, and see when you need to switch to a different level. Within the next 2 weeks, play with this and let me know what you observed.

If you want to know more about Conversational Intelligence®, you can go THERE or you can contact me to see how I could support you, using these framework and tools, to develop trust and team efficiency, in your business or company.

 Take care,


2 thoughts on “The 3 levels of conversation

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing this. I’m curious how you see it mapping or correlating with other 3-level frameworks, such as informational, personal, and relational. It was hard for me to map the middle personal on your description of positional. however, even as I write this, I sense that it does map. do you have any thoughts on this? thanks for your help, and for your work in helping people connect better.. Wishing you an amazing day!


    1. Hi Eduardo,
      Thanks for your comment and question. I don’t really know the framework you are pointing to but here is how I see it: informational fits well the transactional level, where mainly information is shared. The second one, personal, could fit with the positional level in the sense that at this level, we are trying to influence others but the pitfall is to stick to our side of the equation, protect our position (become addicted to being right). This could be seen as a personal level where we focus on protecting what we have and who we are. The 3rd one, transformational, involves co-creation and a higher level of connection with others and in this sense would fit the relational. Once again, I don’t really know the informational/personal/relational levels but that what comes up for me when reflecting on this. I hope this helps.


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