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Empathy in online conversations | Rob Bogue, Microsoft MVP

What gets someone from “how do I do virtual meetings and events” to “how do I exude and detect empathy” in virtual meetings and events?”

Unfortunately we are obviously still learning how to really connect in virtual meetings.

The good news, though, is that it's not hard, it's just different.

In this episode of #ThoughtLeaderConversations, Roger interviews the multi-talented Rob Bogue whose accomplishments include everything from boasting author credits on 28 books to holding a patent to being a Microsoft MVP for nearly two decades.

Along the way they discuss creating psychological safety, eliciting vulnerability, holding remote workers accountable effectively, "stakeholder salience," elements of trust, and more.

Learn more about Rob's work or contact him at


Series: #ThoughtLeaderConversations   Sponsor: V2, LLC, expert virtual and hybrid event production,   Host: Roger Courville, CSP,   


Barely edited-transcript

[00:00:00] Roger Courville, CSP: When someone grows from the question of how do I do virtual meetings and events to the deeper space of how do I exercise empathy in virtual meetings and events, how does that happen?

Well, hello and welcome to Empathetic Online Conversations. My name is Roger Courville, and welcome to another V2’s #ThoughtLeaderConversations series and brought to you by the crew at Virtual Venues, the team with a combined 163 years of experience bringing you virtual and hybrid event production in really specialized outcome oriented scenarios.

And I am excited -- and I really, seriously mean that -- to welcome someone whose work I deeply respect. Now, if the host gets to say something about the guest that the guest can't say on his own LinkedIn profile, Rob Bogue. Is a polymath. Seriously. Author credit on 28 books holds a patent 19 years as a Microsoft mvp.

And if you ever hang out around the Microsoft ecosystem at all, you know, that is a bitter really big deal. He is a creator's creator, has an online course, a new online course, the Art of Empathetic Conversation, and when I saw that, I hadn't talked to Rob for a while, so I invited him to, to the show.

Welcome, Rob.

[00:01:19] Rob Bogue: Well, thanks Roger. I appreciate the intro and, uh, the invite to come visit. And I suppose I should say something wonderfully interesting about you as well, but I, I will just say that we met through the NSA and I will leave it at that.

[00:01:33] Roger Courville, CSP: I remember that. Well, maybe we'll get there because obviously you're not the first nor will you be the only guest, here that has some connection there. But fill in a gap or two f for us. Uh, tell us who you are and what you're up to lately.

[00:01:48] Rob Bogue: Uh, so I started as a technologist. I started doing, uh, servers and networks and all this stuff, and that was great for a while. And then I would deploy all this stuff and then nobody would use it, or they would use it in ways like taking your phone and hammering and nail in, right?

Like, it was just really odd, really weird ways. And so that led me down this journey of how do I start to get people to actually use what I build, right? It's the philosophy question. If a tree falls in the florist and no one hears it, are you still wrong? Um, and so I said, okay, uh, I will start to do the research and understand people and humans and why aren't we changing and what's the motivation and, and how do we understand other people?

And that led me, that's led me through a lot of things you mentioned in the 19 years as an mvp. Um, I was honored to do a book with my wife back in 2019 for SHRM extinguished Burnout. So we were talking about how people become demotivated. Uh, we did a confident change management course in 2020, which is, um, 70% of change projects.

In fact, 70% of all major projects fail, right? They're either not on time or on budget or on value. Uh, and so we did that work and that sort of led us to this place that we're at right now, which is the, the empathetic conversation. Imagine a place where you have to meet a whole brand new room of people and really get who they are every two years or every year or every three months, right?

And, and, and I started to say, well, how do you do that quickly? And, and that led me to the work of James Bradley. It led me to some things like motivational interviewing. It led me to the work in dialogue mapping and how do we put these all together so that we can better understand the. The people that we get to interact with and yeah.

So that's, that's sort of the short version of the long history of the world.

[00:03:55] Roger Courville, CSP: Right. And uh, well, I'll just say this just to kind of frame up where we might hang out here for an hour. So grab your coffee, get a refill because we're gonna have some fun. If there's one thing that I've grown to appreciate about Rob, it's that.

The, is that he actually thinks like a people person. And so when I saw his course, you know, the Art of Empathetic conversation and I was familiar with his background as a technologist, I just kind of smushed the two together going, oh, that's, that's plenty to talk about for an hour. If not, um, well, I'm sure we could go on for a lot, a lot beyond that, but let's just maybe start where we're at.

In fact, I'll even just kinda weigh in, you know, my own 24 year journey in the virtual events conferencing space actually took a similar route when we were doing consulting. You know, the core challenge was, oh, people got this new web conferencing thing right place where, or whatever. And, and the challenge was they'd send out an email to the whole organization going, here's your new password.

And people are like, what for it? Right? And so the next level tends to be training. Oh, well we just need to just. Pound more crap into their brains, and then they'll understand the benefits and, and go there. And we really got to the place where it was like, oh, wait a minute. If we wanna realize the benefits of this as an organization, we've gotta think in terms of change management.

And that took us through a whole, whole different level. But back to our opening question maybe is just kind of smooshing together, empathetic conversation with, with say, a real time communications technology. How do we, what's that growth path from? Okay, how do I do zoom to, oh yeah, I need to connect with

[00:05:47] Rob Bogue: people.

Well, and, and yeah. So that's just it, right? Like that's the, that's the, that's the key question. Like, I need to connect with people. How do I do it? You connect with people when you understand them. And, and so people talk about empathy and they're like, Ooh, empathy. The thing is, there's two different empathies.

Both of them mean understanding. One, empathy is affective or feeling based empathy. And that's the one that when people think about empathy, they're like, Ooh, it's all touchy feely. Right? And sometimes we've gotta do that. Sometimes we have to do, uh, that sort of thing. But a lot of times I find that your engineers and your planners and your project managers and, and, and people aren't necessarily that.

So there's the other kind of empathy, which is, uh, cognitive empathy, that is understanding their world, understanding what motivates them, what makes them tick, how do things, uh, interact in their world, what's their background and experience? And ultimately, when we're talking about, um, event organizers, we're talking about what makes them, what makes them want to come to your event, what makes them want to show up where you are and the space that you are creating around you so that they can feel like they're gonna get the experience they want.

And, and, and so that's it, right? Like we have to first understand people if we want to be able to have a conversation with them and to get them to feel like we understand them and we're gonna draw them into the event. And it, and, and so they think that's the key, right? How do we get, how do we get to that understanding?

And then what's the, what are the tools that we use to get to that understanding? That's, that's the thing that I think is the magic.

[00:07:31] Roger Courville, CSP: Let me put an exclamation point on even just one passing comment that you just shared right there. Even just identifying a couple different types of empathy. And I'm gonna kinda just look at the camera and speak to the audience here for a second.

Um, and we'll, we'll come back to, uh, where and how you access this particular course. This isn't a book, it's a course right at conver, uh, confident change But the reason I point that out is because, There is a level of depth and nuance that Rob brings to the table that has the academic cred and the tactical, how do I do this?

And so, uh, I'll offer that up as a compliment to Rob, but I also want to encourage you to get way beyond blog posts that go out. Here's four tips for an online meeting. Because sadly, you know, sometime, I'm just gonna be blunt, half of them are so vapid. I'm just like, I want to send you an invoice because you just wasted my time clicking to the damn thing.

Right. Um, just my, my thing. So where you begin in the course, and I can't say as I got through the whole thing in prep for this, but setting that up cuz I know you get to the tactical, here's the really pragmatic how you do it. Hands on exercises a little bit, you know, further into the course, but you begin by even just saying, here's the primary function of consciousness, right?

Yeah. If you're gonna understand. Fill in the blank.

[00:09:02] Rob Bogue: If, if you, if you're gonna understand people, you have to understand that people are prediction engines. We're constantly trying to predict. Say that again.

[00:09:09] Roger Courville, CSP: Let's make sure the audience heard that people

[00:09:11] Rob Bogue: are prediction engines. Mm. That's what we are. Um, so yeah, so it's, it's all about, it's, we, we wanna predict other people's behavior and when we predict other people's behavior, and if you're an event organizer, you wanna predict their behavior.

You wanna predict are they coming? Right? Like we know virtual events are gonna have falloff, we know even in-person events have falloff or

[00:09:33] Roger Courville, CSP: meetings. Right. You're in a project management meeting, whatever.

[00:09:36] Rob Bogue: Yes. Right. Whatever, whatever it is. We know that people don't show. We wanna predict whether they will or they won't show.

We, we do this instinctively because that's how we're wired. In fact, that's why we've become the dominant biomass on the planet. Um, and you're like, that's a really weird way to say it. And I'm like, yeah, it's us and the ants and we're both cooperators, right? And between the two of us, we own the planet.

Tell me, did you,

[00:10:03] Roger Courville, CSP: uh, couple times here on the event side of thinking, we're thinking about getting people to attend an event, but since we probably attend a lot more meetings than say, virtual events, the same would be true. Stop me if I'm wrong. The same would also be true if you're thinking about, okay, I've just gone through this meeting.

I need to think about who's gonna take what kind of action exiting the meeting. Absolutely.

[00:10:30] Rob Bogue: Absolutely. It works in every direction, right? Like, so first of all, will they take your meeting, right, internal or external, uh, public or private? Are they gonna show up to the meeting? When you invite the c e o, how do you make sure they show.

Right. And, and so that's the one side of it, right? How do you, how do you, how do you know what's important to them? How do you understand how they think enough that you can write in such a way that they'll show up? And then on the backside, as you go, as you go through the meeting, you're actually facilitating the conversation.

How do you structure things in such a way that they can process it? And you're like, wait a minute, what do you mean? They can process it. Like, I'm using English and they speak English, so it should all work. And if, if, if, if you ever talk to a child who's a teenager, you know that sometimes you're talking one thing and they're talking something different.

No, yeah, I know. Ask him to take out the trash. Like, he'll be like, what trash, where the kitchen trash. It's always the kitchen trash. But yeah, so it's, it's one of those things of if you can start to, uh, understand the other person predicted behavior, predict what they can respond, Two. Um, and, and I think that's really important.

I wanna come back before we get too far, um, because you said about research. So I have this crazy habit, you know, about this crazy habit, but, but the listeners don't. Um, I read and review a book every single weekend. I've been doing that for 10 years. So there's when, you know, when you're talking about that library of things that I draw from, I'm drawing from a library that's, you know, now over 600 books that I've read and, and written about.

Um, and that's why sometimes I'll say things like, with a dominant biomass on the planet because I read these really awful books that most humans should not be forced to read, but sometimes they have some interesting things. Well, so, and,

[00:12:26] Roger Courville, CSP: and you're good at connecting the dots, right? If we distill down concepts like stakeholder salience or ethnographic interview or dialogue mapping, which happened to be three of the things that you touched on in, in the art of convers, uh, empathetic conversation course, then somebody else isn't gonna have to go read four books on dialogue mapping.

The question is, now how does that get boiled down? So I understand the framework, but also I know how to take

[00:12:54] Rob Bogue: action. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's, that's the super important thing. You, you talk about, on the one hand, those, you know, four tips to a better meeting, right? You get that and then you have the academic, um, tone of, you know, 800 pages, which is all about.

The dynamics of meetings and there's equations that have little sigma signs in them, right? And we're all like, I don't know what a sigma is, but it's theory. Yep. Um, and, and, and the goal is, look, I I can't action some mathematical formula that's got a sigma. And I'm like, I now I I'm out. Right? How do we make things actionable?

Um, let, so let's do this. Let's just take a quick sidebar and let's talk about burnout for just a second. Cuz burnout's in the meeting, everybody, oh my gosh. Everybody talks about burnout, right? Burnout is three things classically. Um, it's exhaustion, cynicism, inefficacy. Here's the thing I'm gonna tell you.

Exhaustion, you've been exhausted, not been in burnout. That's not an actual thing. Cynicism, lemme get back to that in just a second. The thing is burnout, the whole thing is about inefficacy. It's your perception of your ability to be effective, right? That one little thing. Like, wait a minute. What about that cynicism thing?

Here's the thing, you're only cynical when you no longer believe you can make a change. I e you're no longer effective. Okay. That's burnout in a nutshell. Like, what about stress and all these other things? We can talk about that, but if, but if you're trying to just figure out what's the core, what's the root nugget?

What is the thing I have to know so that I can be effective? That's it. Um, and, and when we talk about stakeholder salience and, and you know, how do we have to think about, uh, the power and the sense of urgency and the sense of legitimacy? How do those things fit together so that we find the right people to put in our room so that we can get the right outcomes?

And most people don't think about stakeholders with the, that simple three, three tier, three leg framework. And as a result, you're always wondering, well, should I invite this person to the room? I don't really know. Are they really the right person? Um, and that's, I think that's, I think the key and it's the, that gap between the oh four steps, a really great meeting and the tone of, um, I call, I call it the ivory tower thinking, right?

And, and how do you get in a spot that's between those where it's simple enough that it makes sense, but it's something that you can figure out how to apply to your meeting, your event, your thing, how, how do you apply it,

[00:15:36] Roger Courville, CSP: right? And I think that's one of the, I mean, to be fair, there's a time for the four tips for a blood or Oh yeah.

Blah, blah, blah, blog post, right? I need, just need a few ideas. Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I can apply that in the meeting that I'm gonna be in, in 10 minutes. But you're really talking about human beings as prediction machines, as in how do I, uh, biomass, how do I, how do I. Evaluate the lay of the land. And I want to actually sidebar back to the little sidebar that you had because, um, I just wanna state it in a different set of terms.

So if someone happens to have watched every single, or listen to every one of these particular episodes, they know I'm working on my doctorate in spiritual formation. And one of the ways that I would describe a good, good part of the challenge in the world is hopelessness, right? I live in Portland, Oregon, right back after the George Floyd thing.

We had more than a hundred nights of rioting and on and on. And if you think about why do people take to the streets with clubs and spray paint cans, at part, it's, it's, there is a, an element of them taking social action because they can make a change or, or want to make a change or wanna see change. But why do that as opposed to show up to a, to a city meeting?

And, and, and weigh in your opinion, because of what you were just describing with burnout, those inefficiencies of going, wait a minute, I don't feel like I can make a difference. How am I, how is my voice gonna be heard? So whether it's burnout or I might bring it in from another angle and go, how do we provide hope in a world that has no hope?

Or that right for many people, um, sometimes seems like it has no hope. Come back to then, you know, say the organizational environment that many of us have lived in, right? You li you, you work for, uh, my fiance works for a Fortune 500 company. At some point you've hit a wall and going, how am I gonna do the right thing here?

Doesn't make any difference if I do it or don't do it. Uh, nobody seems to notice, or how do I make a change? And, and at some point that. That's almost a debilitating thing to run into. So as we come back to like talking about empathetic conversations, I think it's useful to, at some level, in your case, drawing on this corpus of, of of academic works to go, wait a minute, what can we draw from that to then go, okay, how do I equip someone to walk into their next meeting and have at least one little bit of heightened sensibility for what's, what's, what are the motivations in the room?

What are people likely to go, how are they gonna go take action? How do I achieve or make a difference, um, by way of showing up? And then of course, that's complicated when we're virtual, to be fair. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:18:40] Rob Bogue: So, so let's, so let's take apart one little thing. So we, so, so you talk about hopelessness, and I think that's a big, huge driver.

Uh, it's, it's a marker When someone feels hopeless, that's, that's a tier one marker for me, that they're at risk. And, and we as another human being who care about human beings need to do something. Um, but let me rewind just a smidge pa before that event, right? We as humans have a fundamental need to be heard.

We need to have other people here and understand us. Uh, and that's a part of our, so social foundations, and it's, and it's all the other things. But, but, so now we need to feel heard. How do we feel heard? And I think, uh, just to pick one little piece out of motivational interviewing. So motivational interviewing, uh, Really is the technique that they use when you encounter an addict.

Uh, addicts have behaviors which are very hard to change. Everybody sort of knows that. Um, but this is the thing that, that is been proven effective at changing behaviors. One of the pieces of it is called ORs. And it's a great way to have a conversation with another person. Uh, and you and I sort of do it instinctively, I think, but you ask open-ended questions, you wait for the answer, you affirm them.

You know, that's, yes. And by the way, if, if you wanna do improv, that's yes. And, um, then you will reflect and you will summarize. What I think I heard you just say is X I think your broader point is y. Um, and that's, that's just one of those little tidbits that you pick up along the way. And, you know, you can picture, draw a picture of an or canoe or something on your piece of paper.

And just think open, affirm, reflect, summarize, and what that leads you to is a, is a simple technique for helping someone feel heard. The thing is, and connecting this back to hopelessness, we feel hopeless, both because we have no personal agency, we can't do it ourselves. And because we don't believe that the universe and whether we wanna call that community or we wanna call that God, I don't actually care.

We don't believe that that, that the external world will do something positive for us, in part because we don't believe the external world understands us. So as we, as we build understanding, as we build empathy, as we listen, then we necessarily push back the idea of hopelessness. Hopelessness is less likely to be able to grab a hold of us.

If we feel like there's someone else that really gets us to really understand. Right. And I think, you know, when you and I first met, and that's been over a decade ago, um, you know, that was part of what I think connected us was we both sort of knew this life and what it was and, and there were pieces and aspects that most people couldn't get, but that we could commiserate on and, and feel heard.

[00:21:55] Roger Courville, CSP: You know, there are aphorisms that have floated around for a long time that would be cliches if they weren't true. Like if you wanna, if you want a friend, be a friend. Yeah. But to me, if there is one of those things that is really risky to be to, I want to just acknowledge that for many people there, they've, particularly those who have experienced some form of oppression or denigration or whatever, there is a level of, of risk.

In, in even just going to the place of going, ah, at the most foundational level, we as human beings want to know and be known. Yeah. Right. We want to be known, meaning heard. Yeah. But at the same time, one of the most, one of the greatest gifts, dare I even say acts of love that you can do, is to hear someone else, like with the, the, um, the nature of what you were just speaking about and that bears risk.

Mm-hmm. Because we're used to, you know, holding onto the stuff and or, you know, be actually growing in, being able to be open means sometimes you're opening up yourself in a way that, that, um, Well, nobody can hurt you more than those who, right. Than those who know you well. Yeah. That said, I don't think there is any way around, tell me if I'm wrong, I don't think there's any way around if we're talking about how do we increase our empathy in an online hybrid world, I don't think there's any way around growing in how we con not not connect to people, but through technology to people.

Yeah. Or connect with people.

[00:23:46] Rob Bogue: Yeah. Let me, so, so you, you hit on something that's super important and critical, um, which is the relationship with trust, safety, vulnerability, and intimacy. Uh, and these are, these are, these are a loop. These are a circle. Lemme tell you how this works. And people are like, oh, it's chicken or the egg, which comes first?

Do you tr do you trust someone or are you vulnerable? And I'm like, yes. And I'm like, that's not helpful. But, but here's the thing. So there's some level of trust, tiny level of trust. And, and, and I use Ben, Ben Franklin for this, right? So Ben Franklin, if he wanted to build trust with someone else, what he did is he asked them to borrow a book.

Now, today, that's a much smaller ask, but even back then, it was a fairly small ask. Hey, Jim, can I borrow your book on x? I will read it and return it to you in a week. Simple, simple. Jim then has to trust Ben Franklin. He's got a reputation. That's okay. He does it, Ben returns it. And, and that's the foundation of trust.

You make a commitment. You meet the commitment, or you renegotiate one of those. And if you just keep doing that, trust builds. The more that you do trust, Oh, by the way, trust is our prediction engine, right? Trust is really, I believe this outcome will occur because of the circumstances in the person. Uh, and so that's our prediction engine at work.

And he goes, okay, the value of trusting is less than the value times the probability of betrayal. So we're gonna trust that is our safety, that's our sense of safety. The, the higher our confidence is in our prediction, the safer we feel. Um, and I could say that there's some other factors, but, but effectively we feel safe when we feel like we will not be harmed.

In other words, we can trust all the things that we've got in place to protect our safety. So that leads to vulnerability. That is you disclose something to the other person because it lightens your load. When we share, we lighten our load and you feel like the other person can bear it. The other person will keep this and they'll keep it safe, and they won't use it against me, and they won't.

Right? And that's vulnerability. The thing is, is this cycle keeps coming. And c coming and coming, we build more and more intimacy. We be, we become more and more connected with the other person. Um, so when we have this cycle running in the right direction, we build better understanding, we better, better vulnerability, we build better empathy, um, that that cycle, that engine, that flywheel gets moving.

And it can be a powerful force. Now, I can't talk about trust without talking about betrayal because they're two sides of the same coin. It's not, it's not that when we trust somebody, we don't believe that we'll never be betrayed. We believe that the value of trusting them is more important than the, the betrayal.

The impact of the betrayal times is probability, right? And I don't mean to make it a math equation, but it's sort of a math equation. It's the way that we think about it. We evaluate A versus B. Um, and so when we're building empathy, when we're trying to build empathy, part of that is building that trust, that predictive ability, that knowing this other person will behave in this way.

I can tell you that I can meet somebody from a farm in Nebraska, literally did this a couple of months ago, and I can ask them a handful of questions and I know how they fundamentally view the world, right? And if, and if anybody's grown up in the middle of the country on a farm, you know that you set cans up on finch posts and you shoot them because there's nothing else to do.

But, but that teaches me something about that other person in a way that I can predict how they'll react. You're like, well, how does that ma map to a meeting? It's not so much that is, it's putting all the pieces together and going, this is a person that values hard work. They value commitment, they value community, and they do that because they've had to.

That's what you learn, um, in small farming communities. It's just a way that the, the system works. And so they in internalize that system. If I look at someone else, uh, someone from a busy city, somebody who, who grew up in Chicago or New York or LA or someplace like that, they have a different set of things that are super important to them.

They're not better, they're not worse, they're just different. And I know that if I engage someone with a really big challenge, uh, and I need something done really quickly, someone who has grown up in a city who has grown up in a, I'll call it a high test world that isn't very fair, but, but it's simple. Um, those people do those things and so, I start to build the, this understanding and this trust of how people will react based on what I know about them, what I've observed about them, and the conversations that we've had.

So that's, that's how you get, that's how, you know, trust. Super, super important for me. Like I, I will tell you I'm a 10 on a 10 for trust. It's like if you scale how much people want and need and build trust, I'm a 10, right? Um, I'm not so high on safety. I'm like, eh, right. I, I feel I've got enough self-efficacy.

I feel like I can, I'll be okay, right? I'll tell people things that probably shouldn't, but I do. And the people that burn me burn me, and I don't talk to them again. Right? It's like not hard.

[00:29:24] Roger Courville, CSP: Well, and, but think about that as the most, you know, that very foundational human part of the human communicative experience or relational experience, particularly in a world where, Whether it's a single online meeting or for, for many, if not most, there is some level of, of distance that is mediated with technology.

Mm-hmm. Right. And honestly, this is a function of email or, you know, SharePoint or Slack or, or you know, WebEx. It doesn't really make any difference what that mediation is. What it does mean is that we conduct some part of our lives in this case, talking about our work lives. Yeah. In an environment that may be, have a different set of inputs and outputs.

Yeah. Right. Because I mean, if I had a nickel, you know, I've been doing this a long time. If I had a nickel for every time somebody went, oh yeah. Those online presentations, that that's okay, but I'd still rather be there in person. I had a nickel for every one of those. You, and I'd be playing golf off my yacht somewhere.

Um, off your private island. Yeah. Right. But the. But the reality is we all live in that mediated, at least a partially mediated world. And the question isn't if something is different. The question is how is it different and how do I therefore negotiate it, right? Because socially we notice what we lose before we notice what we gain, right?

So I miss the in-person meeting as I'm moving to this online thing. And obviously a whole lot of folks got forced in the last, you know, two and a half, three years, got forced into a, into a world that, that they may have otherwise been laggards at, at, uh, embracing. But now we live in some kind of a mediated way, and we've gotta think about it.

So I, yeah, I love that little circle of, I forget what you called it, the, you know, Trust, safety. Vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities. Yeah. And, and honestly, that's one of the, the things that I appreciated about the, the parts of the online course that I got a chance to poke through, is being able to even think about those kinds of frameworks going, ah, now if this is true, uh, we're, we're in a Slack channel.

Yeah. How, how am I thinking about the human beings on the other side when I may not have a video camera turned on for at least partial body language? If not, you know what I mean? Yeah. And so it, to me, it's not right or wrong to use the telephone or a webcam or Slack or, or Microsoft teams or whatever the question is.

Carrier pigeon. How am I thinking about, um, how the medium affects. That, and we've all had that experience that in one example, that will probably most of us realize, right? Oh, send an email. It was totally taken outta context. Next thing you know, our undies are in a bunch because Yep. We were minus some aspect of, of communication that either either could have moved to the telephone or I could have just thought through better before I push the send button,

[00:32:33] Rob Bogue: right?

I have a delay on my outbound email for one minute. Every single piece of email that I have gets delayed one minute. What tool do you use to do that?

[00:32:41] Roger Courville, CSP: Is that in my, in outlook or? Yeah,

[00:32:44] Rob Bogue: you can set a rule that, that it, it'll delay one minute. Uh, and I totally do that cuz a, I forget to put attachments and other things that they now remind you of, but, um, but I, but I totally want that.

Oh, I just hit send. Maybe I should not do that. Um, But I want to come back. So, so have things changed? Yes, absolutely. In fact, they've been changing for a very long time. If you go back to 2000 ish, um, Robert Putnam wrote a book called Bowling Alone and Bowling Alone, he talked about, Hey, we're not going to the bowling alleys with teams anymore.

Right? And they're all the little clubs. Uh, and by the way, that struck a chord with me cuz I can remember my grandparents being in like this bowling club thing, right? Like, I don't even remember the name, but I remember us. Oh my gosh, this is their bowling club. Um, and, and, and Robert Putnam also followed that up with something with our kids and about how our kids are learning and growing and not, um, getting the same sorts of experiences that we had.

And then there's a work of, uh, Sherry Turkle who wrote a book called The Loan Together, which talks about the impact of technology on our relationships. And we're simultaneously connected in ways that make it quicker and easier to, uh, speak with anyone anywhere on the planet. And at the same time, we are in ways, um, more and more distant.

We are more disconnected, we're, um, separated in ways that, uh, we, we just don't form the deeper connections that we probably, um, could or should. So, um, I'm gonna take a quick pause here. Um,

sorry about that. There is, uh, do you ever working from home? I love, I love, I love working from home until all of a sudden I have people in my backyard that shouldn't be there. Um,

[00:34:56] Roger Courville, CSP: it's one of the rules of the universe. I mean, the way that I always phrase it is, you know, one of rule number 437 of the universe is that if you're gonna do a virtual presentation, somebody fires up a leaf blower outside the window.

Yeah. Somebody walk stranger walking in the backyard. I think that

[00:35:13] Rob Bogue: qualifies. Yeah. It's wandered off, but I'll review video later and see what's going on. Uh, anyway, uh, the, uh, so I think we have, uh, we've definitely changed, uh, and we, we definitely get different senses as you're talking about the body language and all that stuff.

And, and how do you choose the channel that you communicate in. Um, you know, one of the other things that we talk about sometimes is how do you pick the channel? And today we are overwhelmed with channels. We, I've got a slide somewhere where it's like 26 channels that the corporate communicator can use to communicate internally in their organization.

And you're like, That's absolutely ridiculous. Who can make that decision? Um, I think that as we're trying to build empathy, we have so many challenges and so many different ways we, we can break the problem down into a couple of things. First of all, some channels are synchronous, like this one, uh, at least it's synchronous for you and I, um, there are some channels which are one-way and some which are two-way.

And so if we're looking for empathy, we should ideally start with the idea that we want a two-way channel, because without the two-way channel, whatever that is. And, and by the way, I don't, I don't think of a Slack channel as, as one way. I think of it as two way, right? Like it's, it's asynchronous, but it's, but it still gives you the chance to get feedback.

Even your, even your email, right? Like Right. Oh, well they're gonna, yeah. The

[00:36:43] Roger Courville, CSP: question is really one of latency between absolutely. Inputs and outputs, right?

[00:36:49] Rob Bogue: Absolutely. And so how do we, how do we become empathetic and how do we listen in the moment when the, that latency can get in the way? How do we, how do we recognize that there is a, um, there is a part of that latency that makes communication harder?

And I don't know if you, I, I remember a time before fiber optics were, uh, deployed to the oceans to communicate with the opposite side of the planet, and I can remember how incredibly awkward the phone calls were. Yep. Hi Bob. How are you? Hi Bob. How are you doing? And you're talking over each other and you almost, I felt like I almost needed to do to, to, to end everything I said with over, right?

So they would know I'm done. And we have that sort of problem with our communications now is how do we adapt the way that we respond to people in a way that is medium, uh, um, centric or medium aware? Because the way that you respond in Slack and the way that you respond in email are different. The way that you respond in a, in a big group is different than the way that you respond in a little group.

Uh, and, and the nuances of that, um, are, are, are difficult. So a group of people that we typically work with, uh, and if you have any, anybody in in your audience who's in hr, they're gonna totally resonate with this and everyone else is gonna be like, no, I don't think so, but. Inside of HR is an HR free zone.

They say stuff when it's just them that you would never be allowed to say. I mean, I'm like, did you just say no? This is an HR free zone. It never got said, I'm like, you get said, I heard it. Um, but, but there's that building of community, that understanding of the environment and understanding they're gonna say that.

And, and that is so sacrosanct that those, like inside that HR group is so confidential. They know no one's ever gonna say anything about that. And that's one of those things you learn, right? In that case, I learned it because they said something in front of me and I'm like, that didn't just happen. Right.


[00:39:25] Roger Courville, CSP: there's a level of offering someone some grace going, oh, you know, that could have sounded a bit ist racist. Yeah, yeah. Whatever. But I know Rob, I, I know that's not his heart. Right, right, right. Even if that came out wrong. Right,

[00:39:43] Rob Bogue: right. Well, and, and I don't think, and I should by the way, I'm, I'm not trying to, um, I'm not trying to say that they were doing anything wrong.

Exactly. It's just the way that they presented it was very raw and real. Right. Right. Um, and so you, you know, as you get to spend time with people, you get to learn them better, faster. You get to get, develop better empathy. The more open, trusting, vulnerable they can be. You know, one of the things that if I'm doing groups, I did a group a couple weeks ago.

We did, we did some suicide groups. Um, people with suicide experiences, either they're survivor, someone they loved, died, or they had themselves, um, had suicidal ideation or an attempt. Um, and we were in these groups and we created safety. And that safety allowed people to be vulnerable. That vulnerability made them closer and more empathetic to one another.

Um, officially the literature says that you shouldn't put someone who is a suicide attempt and someone who is a survivor, one, someone they love, died in the same group because they say they'll, they'll um, kind of great at each other. Right. They'll feel like trigger each other. Yeah, they'll trigger each other.

But the thing is, if you do it in the right safety and you make sure that everybody really is protected and safe, it can it. It's one of those beautiful experiences. Uh, and I think, you know, that's one of the things I, I know you've had these experiences where you have been facilitating a meeting and it's, I don't know, 15 people and you, and by the time you walk out of the room, you're like, what just happened?

And how do I bottle that? Right? Because everybody came together, they were all vulnerable, they all worked together, they all problem solved. They all, they did whatever it is that the meeting needed. Right? Um, and they may never do that again. Or it may be the behavior of the group, um, but it's just magical.


[00:41:50] Roger Courville, CSP: that No, that's a great point. And I, I mean, and that's actually the power of a facilitator who has some skill and at least understanding how to, how to do something like that. And I think if, um, If there's one thing that I've observed, and particularly in the online space, it's, it's efficiency versus effectiveness.

Mm-hmm. And for instance, since a lot of my work has been in learning and development, one of the, we moved online and our kind of default position was efficiency. Mm-hmm. It's cheaper. We have reach in terms of who we can include, you know, those kinds of things. And, uh, I'll use one example, I won't name the name the client, but they covid forced them to move their three day seminar online.

Like lots of people going, oh, we gotta figure out how to do this online. We never thought it could, was even possible to do online, but we're gonna send a whole bunch of people their money back if we don't figure out how to do our next three day workshop online. And. Um, and this will sound self aggrandizing and it's, it, it's not, but it's just experience.

But I said, you know, the first thing you've gotta do is get people talking with each other. Yeah. And they took my advice and said, okay, we'll have this little, you know, eight minute breakout or something and have everybody introduce themselves and, you know, what's your favorite ice cream? Or whatever that initial thing was.

You know, that breakout now that literally they're less than 10 minutes into the program and they fire everybody off into breakouts for 20 minutes at mm-hmm. Breakout sizes that are of sufficient size so that there can actually begin to be a level of rapport. And I'm not, if we were thinking simply efficiency, that doesn't get you there.

Right. If you're thinking effectiveness, the, and that's just the beginning, right? That's the beginning of that kind of thing. But I, I just say that as a long-winded way of suppo saying, Supporting what you're describing about the nature of empathy, and in particular in this case, in an online context. It's not that it can't be done, it's just frequently that we haven't done it.

And honestly, we too often have seen virtual meetings, virtual events, see even synchronous modalities, uh, just abused, right? Because someone is thinking of efficiency. Rather than going, wait a minute, we're talking, we got people. It takes people a while to warm up and develop trust and develop vulnerability in these, these things that you're talking about.

Just outta curiosity, um, one of the el uh, one of the segments in your, in your course talks about dialogue mapping. Yep. How does that, how does that fit in?

[00:44:48] Rob Bogue: Yeah, so dialogue mapping, uh, work of horse brittle. Uh, he came up with the idea of wicked problems. He's the, he's the guy that, that coined the term, him and his co-author.

And after that he also created something called ivus, issue Based Information System. And it is the visualization of what we're all saying. Uh, so you can use a mind mapping tool. There's some specialized ones, but honestly, a mind mapping tool is just fine. Um, he basically codifies things into a structure, which is four pieces.

And so it's either a question, and that's by the way, the root of the, the map is, is always you start with the question, what are we trying to solve? Why are we together? Uh, there's an idea typically recommend, uh, typically represented by an exclamation point, and then there's a pro and a con, right? And so you can have these nested, so a pro can have ideas underneath it for how to do it or, um, can have cons.

The negative consequences of it. What it's really, really good for is when it feels like the group can't understand what they're all saying because the facilitator has to code something. It's either a question, an idea, a pro or a com. Hmm. And what happens is they code it and it's visually available to everyone and someone will go, I don't think that's a pro.

Right? We can get people through the system faster and it's listed a pro and someone will go, I don't think that's a good idea. I think we need to slow them down. Um, I in fact had, um, someone that, that is a client prospect who was saying they wanted to find a way to extend their, uh, 40 hour, 80 hour initiation for, uh, Uh, new, new workers for, for new agents in this case.

And I said, that's the wrong direction. And they looked at me like I had two heads cuz he's like, I run this business. But I'm like, well, no, no, no, no. Like, I'm not saying don't educate them. I'm saying don't lock them in a room for 80 hours. You know, get 40 hours in, get 'em a couple of skills, get 'em working, get 'em working with other people, do mentoring and coaching and all that stuff.

Right? Um, but, but it was a hard, it was a hard pill for them to, to swallow. Um, is how do we, how do we move in this opposite direction? And those are the kinds of things that dialogue mapping really surfaces. It surfaces the, the situations where you think it's a positive and I think it's a negative and the other person's just questioning it.

I don't even, I don't even know what you're talking about. Um, but what, but I wanna come back cuz you, you were talking about this, this, the way we measure efficacy versus efficiency. And that always reminds me of Richard Hackman's work. And so Richard Hackman, uh, former Harvard, wrote a book called Collaborative Intelligence, which is really, really good.

Uh, and he talks about how do you measure teams, right? And, and sort of that, that, that, I don't know if you, like, if you take, if you've taken calculus, this will make sense. And if you haven't taken calculus, just think higher order, right? But the first, um, the first level is what's their output? What did you actually create?

You know? And as you move up higher levels, you start thinking about, well, how are they working together? What's that social process? Right? So what's the first integral? And then the second is learning and growth. How much faster are they moving? Because they understand each other, they're growing, they're they're interacting.

And I think that in the quarterly results, public company drive towards the bottom line that we see. We often spend time on the productive output instead of looking at how are we building the scenarios such that they work in the right spaces, right? How, how do people get along and how do they, how do they move forward together in ways that's positive, which is that dialogue mapping, right?

Like that's the, that's what you use. It's a tool to get to better social processes. We learn to question each other. We learn when I'm gonna say something, you're thinking it's a positive and I think it's negative. Um, and I, I think Hackman's work in that space has been, I is amazing in terms of how do you interact with people who you are going to be interacting with over a long period of time.

[00:49:25] Roger Courville, CSP: What's one of the. Name one of the outcomes for the course that kind of brought us together. The art of

[00:49:37] Rob Bogue: Yeah. The art of empathetic conversation. Yeah. Yeah. So

[00:49:42] Roger Courville, CSP: why, why might somebody want, what, what's a takeaway that either they themselves or probably even more importantly, their team? Right. My, my role with,

[00:49:51] Rob Bogue: right.

Here's the thing, uh, we were never taught how to be empathetic. You've, I've never run across a person who's been told, yes, I had a course on empathy except for a counselor one time. Right. Most of the time we're told, well, you've been talking since you're two. You ought to know how to listen by now. Right.

And anybody who's had a two year old who hasn't listened is going, I dunno, but, but we've never been taught. And so here's the thing, you can. Wander your way through the desert for 40 years and try to figure out how other people function, or you can take the shortcut, and I don't mean a shortcut in a negative ajo of way.

I mean the shortcut that gets you to the destination faster for real. You can build on the work of, of James Fradley and ethnographic interviewing, which was an anthropologist getting dropped into a forest and they had to figure stuff out and understand the culture. You can use his framework of nine sets of questions and named categories of questions to quickly understand another person, like I said earlier with the guy from Nebraska who shot 10 cans off the fence posts you.

You can learn that quickly. You can, you don't have the time. Unfortunately, we do not have the time today to really wander around to try and understand other people. We need to figure out how can I understand and connect with someone very, very quickly. How can I help them feel heard? How can I help them feel understood, and how can I work with them to get something done?

[00:51:31] Roger Courville, CSP: Let me frame that in a, with a slightly different Yeah. Little bit of language, both to support, to support you and, and honestly, if someone, uh, those of you listening, I want you to think about this in the context of, of great practices for adult learning, right? There is a, there is a context or a concept called the repetition effect or space repetition, right?

And the, the essential premises, okay, you're gonna learn how to play piano. You're better off to play piano 15 minutes a day for six days than sit down and do it for three hours in one fell swoop. And that, I think is the power. Well, that's not, I think that is the demonstrated empirical power of something like that's parsed into a course where you, you know, watch a little segment that's two minutes or 20 minutes and then you do some work together and maybe do that over a period of time.

And yet to me, if there is a, is as I was kind of going through it, if there's something that's different than that, uh, that you've put together, it's taking this and going, okay, what do people in a contemporary work environment need to do so they don't have to go get their master's degree in, in organizational development or something like that so that I can be more effective.

And I'll, I'll just kind of undergird it with this and then I'll kind of just close with another question or two with, you know, for you. But, um, 1971 or thereabouts, Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock. Future Shock. Right? The predicted that the rate and scale of change would create such a sense of shock.

Th that, that we would experience confusion and overwhelm, not unlike what we might experience if we went to some strange place that had weird food. Yeah. Or customs. Yeah. And all of this, the stuff that we've been talking about, 28 channels of communication in a typical corporate environment, or, I mean, it's so much deeper than just, how do I use Zoom?

Right. And it's really a people level, right? Right. People, people in an environment, which is one of the, the kind of those two pivot points that you, you yeah. You make early on, I'm, I would imagine that someone listening right now is like, all right, what's my next step? But before we get there, I wanna ask you the question, this question, what question should I have asked you today that I haven't asked you?

[00:54:04] Rob Bogue: I don't know. I think we've had a really interesting conversation. I think that there, there's so much richness to this space. There's so much opportunity. Um, you know, and I love our conversations cuz you bring up adult learning and I'm like, yes, adult learning. And I think about things like productivity aids and I think about, you know, what we put into the course for how do we get people to be able to use this after the course, right?

Like, this isn't the, the exercises you get. You don't put 'em in a book and leave them away. You, you pull them out and you go, how do I use this in my next conversation? Um, but I don't think there's a, i I don't think there's a question, right? Like, I don't think there's one question. I think you and I could definitely talk about how, how people get lost.

Um, and they forget. That it's more than the buttons. Like I built this guide, and it's not available yet, but it will be soon, more later. But I built a guide that's gonna be given at, uh, thor

[00:55:07] Roger Courville, CSP: or confidence Uh,

[00:55:11] Rob Bogue: yeah, it's one of those, um, okay, we'll, we'll, we'll, it'll get announced on Thor Projects.

I know it'll get announced there. Um, but it's a teams guide and it's, and it's how do you, how to join a teams meeting, right? Like, and it's, boy, Microsoft should have produced it, but they didn't. So we did. And we'll, we'll finish that, but people get so hung up on which button do I push and how do I push the button and, right, and, and what does it mean when this button gets pushed?

And honestly, good meetings aren't about that. Whether it's a, you know, whether it's a product, project status update, whether it's something else, it doesn't actually matter. It's not about the buttons, it's about the people on the other side. Right. And, and. We, we've got this technology as an intermediating factor now, right?

This human, human technology between, um, and so we, we tend to focus on that stuff. That's really, really close. But, but that's actually not the important part. I tell people like, technology's not important. It doesn't actually matter. We can make it work, right? And, and they're like, no, I don't know how to make it work.

I'm like, trust me, get less.

[00:56:18] Roger Courville, CSP: That is a message of hope. Yeah. And I'll, and I'll share with you why, cause you mean you, and, and this is probably what you and I, you know, talked about as we were, as we met at the convention center, the, the day that we met. But here's why I think that's a message of hope.

Because there is some part of environment that is obviously continually changing and progressive and progressing and whatever, but there is some part of us as human beings that has been around as long as there have been human beings and learning to grow with how do we connect and communicate with human beings will serve you even as all of those other button pushes, uh, evolve, right?

Because right today you're using Zoom. But yesterday I was using go-to and the day, you know, a week before that I worked at a different company and they used teams and, and teams. The fastest growing product in Microsoft's history, right? Where it's like, well, wait a minute. And I think it's a holdover, well, I know it's a holdover from an industrial age means of going to market, which is I have to go get all of the knowledge first before I then go get out of my apprenticeship and get turned loose on the machine.

Whereas now you're gonna get left behind because. I mean, I, I live in this space. You, you can't, you can't get enough training on Microsoft Teams. You just gotta keep figuring it out, right? There's not a big blue button that says, oh, something in teams changed today. You just figured it out because it's like, oh, yesterday it worked this way.

Today it works this way, but I know what I'm trying to accomplish. And that to me is a message of hope.

[00:57:52] Rob Bogue: Yeah. No, it absolutely is. It absolutely is. But the thing I, the other thing I think is, is important is, well, two pieces. One, when you and I started a while ago, the technology actually wasn't as stable as we wanted it to be, but Right.

Pick a major platform, it's all stable, right? Like anything less than a thousand people, and I don't blank like a thousand people, I start to pay attention. But below that, I just don't care. Right. Um, and I think that that's one piece is the technology is just more stable. And the second thing is you are not going to break it.

Right. I think people are really worried about, oh my gosh, I'm gonna break it and then it won't work, and then whatever. Here's the thing, if you think you've broken it, reboot your computer, log back into the platform, hit join again and see what happens. Right? Because in most cases, you'll be just fine.

Right. And you don't even have to reboot your computer if you don't want to. I just wanted you to feel good about having reset everything.

[00:58:54] Roger Courville, CSP: I wonder how many support technicians go, you know, I get paid to tell people to reboot their computer. Exactly. Exactly.

Yeah. How do we get in touch with you? What's the best way to connect, best place to find out more about, uh, empathetic Conversations course, et cetera?

[00:59:13] Rob Bogue: Is there a Yeah, so, so the main website, the site that, that, everything that I do, there'll be some connection to at some point or another is my Thor site.

The one underneath my name. Um, the Empathetic Conversations Course is on the Confident Change Management Platform, uh, which also has all of the book reviews. It has, uh, 20 some odd change models that we've documented roles. Um, so anybody who's dealing with change, I know we're all dealing with change. Um, there's lots of resources there for you as well.

Uh, they all have ways to connect. Uh, they've got little connect buttons on them somewhere and, uh, would love to hear from people. Love to talk to people about their experience with understanding other people. It's fascinating for me.

[00:59:58] Roger Courville, CSP: I know, and that's why I think you're fascinating. So Rob, thanks again for taking a little time with the audience today.

And hey, if you're still hanging out with us, uh, of course we wouldn't mind if you hit the share button or, uh, subscribe on YouTube, uh, as part of how that helps us be found by others looking for similar kinds of stuff. Um, we've also got a recent interview with Patty DeNucci in her new book, More Than Just Talk, so you might check that out.

Fellow National Speakers Association kind of person. And, uh, again, I want to thank Rob Bogue and, uh, you, of course you can find him, matt thor as kind of the, you know, and figure out where and how to connect from there. And I, trust me, he is one of those kinds of people. That means what he says when he says, just call me.


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