Book Review: Judith Glaser’s  Conversational Intelligence

Common traits we all wish to see in our leaders include Common Sense, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Intelligence Quotient (IQ).  As the book subtitles explore the topic, the writer talks about the power of Conversational Intelligence, and how the practice of building trust can help leaders achieve satisfying results. Here, I agree to the fact that the absence of trust in a relationship can leave it broken. Other than the significance of trust in relationships; its importance in business transactions cannot be denied. No business transaction would take place without the existence of trust.

As Glaser puts it, there are deeper neurochemical and psychological roots to the concept of trust. It is only when our outer and inner realities clash that the factors of distrust and trust arise; i.e when the outer and inner realities of mine collide with yours.

I believe that trust in relationships means, ‘I authentically believe that you have my true concern at heart besides your own.” In the book, Glaser explains the same stating that once you hold the thought that the other individual prioritizes your concerns above his, is when the trust is born.

If we compare these two definitions with a recent survey, we come to a very important conclusion. People in the survey recognized that no important business could take place without the existence of trust. This shows us just how important Conversation Intelligence can be in our daily activities.

Throughout the book, Glaser strives to ensure that we understand the importance of Conversational Intelligence in our practical lives. In the case of businesses, Conversational Intelligence is about constructing a trusting customer relationship with your business. Besides, customers, the absence of trust cannot lead to high performing teams. The authors further mention the importance of this trait on a personal level. Every statement in the book is backed up by research having to do with neuroscience. An example of this, according to the author is how she built the base for the ‘Ladder of Conclusions,’ from her experiences. Read from bottom to top, the ladder comprises of a chain of Thoughts, bio-reactions, Beliefs, Feelings and Conclusions. The very bottom or end constitutes of ‘Conversations.’  

Glaser further says:

We start the ladder from the bottommost. The end of the ladder consists of ‘Conversations.’ From the point of establishment of contact to the chemical level, a series of bio-reactions take place.  Our reactions then reach the intellectual level. This is where we make our standpoint.

The author provides a brief overview to understand the ladder:

1.       Bio-reactions: discussions are fast occurring and instant. At the chemical reaction, they take place quickly and judgments take place within a span of .07 seconds. During this time, Cortisol and Oxygen levels may increase causing our hearts to beat quicker. The activation of a network takes place from a reaction to the point of contact. This network may be the ‘protect/fear’ or the ‘trust’ network.


2.       Feeling: The interactions we have, fall under two labels, i.e. ‘feel good or bad’. This falls under the judgment of the person that we are interacting with. We determine whether they are our associates or a competition. The end judgment is whether we can trust the person or not.


3.       Thoughts: Moving up on the ladder, we enter a more ‘thought’ focused level. This is where we translate our feelings into words by formulating meanings. A number of times, we are simply making it up.


4.       Beliefs: As soon as we successfully put meaning to our feelings, we move on to the other step. This involves mixing our beliefs into the situation or person. These beliefs stem from experiences, thus leading to the affirmation of our thoughts.


5.       Conclusions: Once we reach the level of ‘Conclusions,’ we stop listening to others. We travel into a point of refutation and stop listening to the opinion of other people.


The book is full of explanations about various brain activities that take place while we communicate. These explanations are both understandable and practical. In my opinion, the book highlights a new way of understanding human communication. It associates communication with brain activities (fMRI). It also brings light to the importance of trust in relationships as well as in institutions for the purpose of a fast economy. In order to recover trust, Conversational Intelligence is of utmost importance.

Most information on conversation in the book focuses on live interactions. However, this information generally applies to management skills as well. This is not shocking since the essence of leadership is making people understand the dream and sense the enthusiasm that comes with it. To provide a case, Glaser pointed out five ‘Conversational Blind Spots.’

They are:

·         Blind Spot #1 deals with assumptions. This involves assumptions, such as; others seeing, feeling and thinking exactly what we grasp or feel.

·         Blind Spot #2 is failing to understand that feeling of trust, fear, and doubt change we perceive reality. This ultimately affects our conversation on reality.

·         Blind Spot #3 characterizes being unable to put ourselves in the shoes of another person in moments of fear or distress.

·         Blind Spot #4 involves the assumption we make of remembering other people’s opinions. This is not true as we often recall what we consider to be their opinion.

·         Blind Spot #5 is the last conversational blind spot. It involves assuming that only the speaker can make meaning. However, meaning is to be vested in the hearer.


According to me, these blind spots go hand in hand with leadership studies and concepts. Hence, I would like to conclude that Conversational Intelligence is a magnificent and well-written book. It involves various lessons including tips on excelling to be an amazing parent, coach, partner and above all, a great leader.