Barry O’Reilly welcomes authors Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower to this week’s Unlearn Podcast. They are the co-authors of a new book which details their practical system to have difficult conversations in a productive manner. The book is entitled Radical Alignment: How to Have Game-Changing Conversations That Will Transform Your Business and Your Life.

How the System Originated

Alex and Bob describe how the Radical Alignment system started. It was a tool they used in their own relationship and that they taught to others. Often people would reach out to them afterwards about implementing the tool in other contexts. It soon became apparent that they had something valuable that they could share with the world. [Listen from 2:20]

Four Simple Steps

The heart of the Radical Alignment system is four simple steps, Alex points out. “As a couple, or even as an individual or as a team, you share your intentions, concerns, boundaries and dreams.” Bob explains that they usually constrain the system to a topic and he illustrates how the system would work in the context of the current pandemic. Barry comments that he finds the system practical and applicable. “I felt like it was very explicit about what things matter, what was I going to do, and I could act on it straight away,” he says. [Listen from 5:20

How To Have Difficult Conversations

Conflict often develops because there’s a missing conversation, according to Fernando Flores. “More often than not,” Bob adds, “the missing conversation is just some key little piece of context that you don’t have, that really explains the person’s behavior.” He shares an example of how context changed his perception from annoyance with his neighbor to acceptance. Alex remarks that this system brings structure and ease to her communication. “For me the most valuable thing about this structured conversation is that it gives me a way to organize my emotions and my thoughts and my desires.”  [Listen from 7:30]

The Goal is Binding People Together

Radical alignment essentially is about binding people together. Although the first three steps are vital, they can be somewhat utilitarian, Bob comments. The fourth step – talking about your dreams – is inspirational. He describes the physiological effects of sharing dreams, which results in binding people together as a group. Alex emphasizes that there are important rules for having these conversations: no cross-talk, no arguing points, you must listen to each other. The objective is to develop tactical empathy, which is simply understanding where each person is coming from. [Listen from 12:15]

Other Important Lessons

Barry, Alex and Bob share some important learnings and unlearnings about being radically aligned:

  • People want to have difficult conversations but don’t have the tools to do so. [15:50]
  • Alex says, “Don’t talk about anything important when either of you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. We adapted that to be AHA – angry, hungry or alcohol.” [17:50]
  • Reason and emotions are intimately intertwined. [20:25]
  • “Teams fall apart because people can’t get along, because people don’t understand each other,” Bob comments. “…The big lesson of the last few years is how much I need to actually listen and to take on somebody else’s perspective before I have an opinion about it.” [20:45]
  • People may not understand how useful a tool is unless they use it. [22:55]
  • Trust is a lubricant that helps diverse people work together. [27:15]

Looking Ahead

Alex is excited about how their tool is helping mom entrepreneurs. Bob wants to see people bring their whole selves to work. He hopes that this tool, which has been so impactful in their lives, can impact many others. [Listen from 27:55]