One of the most powerful concepts of the coaching practices that I have learned is to think of our interactions with the idea of three types of conversation: relationship, possibility and action. There is no script for each of these conversations to happen but rather the practice of seeing your conversations through these lenses has helped me consider where I am at with the person.
A conversation that is about you getting to better understand the other person. Its not about becoming friends or buddies but rather finding out what are the things that are affecting and influencing them. How do they think about issues, how do they shape their decision making and what styles of leadership, communication and connection works for them and doesn't work for them. You will find that the more you learn and the more connections you have in your relationship the more possibilities you will find emerging.
This conversation leverages on your relationship, what is possible now that you know more about the person. Who they are and what they can do that you have discovered in the relationship building helps you understand why they are the person for "the job". Your collaborative relationship building has created a possibility that they can live into because you understand them better. For example, I find when I am working towards connecting a technical person with a client that part of the relationship building is finding a common language about the work to be done. That relationship building has now created the possibility that they can talk action because the language barrier of the technical terms and business terms is gone.
Finally the conversation you have been waiting for, a conversation about action. Its the conversation about doing stuff and having gone through building a relationship and building possibility now that action is far more likely to result in success. Now if the request for action is not well received maybe you need to go back to the conversation about possibility or maybe even further back to consider the relationship but in either case you have somewhere to go. I find this much more comfortable than the situation where I need action from someone or expect it from a friend or peer but because there is limited possibility its easy for both sides to take it personally.
I am amazed at how this simple practice can help me in solving a problem or helping someone or figuring out where to go next in a conversation.
Ben Zander has a taken on creating possibility and I will leave you with one of the videos that captures part of his view on it: