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In the office, chat with people, not just with Chat GPT

We look for ways to better use AI in the office, but often forget about the importance of old fashioned conversations that often involve its literal opposite, natural stupidity

Far more important than chatting with AI is having real conversations with colleagues, friends, spouses, children and other loved ones about real issues,
Far more important than chatting with AI is having real conversations with colleagues, friends, spouses, children and other loved ones about real issues, (File photo/iStock)

Over the past few months, everyone has been talking incessantly about Chat GPT. There have been discussions about how Chat GPT has a life of its own, its brilliance and intelligence. My colleagues and I have tried obtaining information and advice from this new creature on a diverse range of issues, including creating travel itineraries, evolving advertising layouts, researching projects, and personal relationship issues. There is now an emerging debate on whether Chat GPT or similar generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools can even turn sentient like human begins.

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Clearly, this is a fascinating space that has captured the imagination of the world. Speaking to a generative AI engine is novel, interesting and, in many cases, it throws up excellent results that satisfy and even surprise us. Not a day goes by without some new AI tool being announced, and my LinkedIn feed is full of people who wish to teach me advanced techniques of talking to Chat GPT. This is perhaps the first time in my life, after my mother taught me how to talk nearly 60 years ago, that so many people are so keen to teach me a new version of this basic human skill once again.

Yes, we should learn how best to speak to Chat GPT to get the best results. But amidst this infatuation with AI, we should not forget that there are many other chats that are far more important. Chats with real people, about real issues. Chats with colleagues, friends, spouses, children and other loved ones. Old fashioned conversations that have no connection whatsoever with Artificial Intelligence but often do involve its literal opposite, natural stupidity.

To ensure these chats do not slip into the back of our AI and GPT seeking minds, I have taken on the onerous responsibility of highlighting these conversations here, particularly those that are important in the context of our workplace. Here are some specific chats we should be thinking about.

Chat APR

APR stands for appreciation, just like GPT stands for “Generative Pre-Trained Transformer”. You will agree that between both these, appreciation is by far the more meaningful word. Conversations that are about conveying genuine appreciation to your colleagues and team members, for the good work they have done, are among the most invaluable interactions in our offices. This may seem like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but how often do we actually take time out to call a colleague and convey our appreciation of his or her efforts? And even when we do so, how genuine is the praise we offer, and do we call out details of specific achievements while conveying our commendations? Such conversations will not just be motivating for your colleague but they will also leave you feeling happier and fulfilled.

Chat FBK

FBK stands for feedback, and these are often challenging conversations to have with office colleagues. Feedback needs to be honest and candid in its content, and sensitive in its delivery. Chat FBK sessions, therefore, need far more preparation than fact-based business plan or strategy meetings because feedback addresses both intellect and emotion. The question is, do we really prepare adequately, and do we provide these conversations the time and bandwidth they require? In these chats, do we convey negatives and areas of improvement as well as we talk about positives? For best results, Chat FBK also needs a quiet and undisturbed environment, which requires some advance planning on part of both parties involved. The best and most nourishing leaders I have known have all been experts at Chat FBK.


Conversations about ideas are among the most stimulating chats that one can engage in. In today’s hypercompetitive world, fresh strong ideas are one of the most potent weapons for success. Chat IDEA needs open minds that are willing to listen, absorb and traverse laterally. Hierarchy tends to impede Chat IDEA sessions, so they need to be conducted over tables where everyone is roughly equal, though a chairperson may be required to steer the discussion. The setting of the discussion is also important. Outdoor spaces and a relaxed ambience tend to work best in many cases, compared to the boring formality of a conference room. In my experience, a good supply of food and beverage adds greatly to the quality of Chat IDEA.

Chat GUI

These are conversations where your role is to provide guidance to a colleague who has approached you for help. Chat GUI needs a different mindset from most other discussions. It needs generosity, empathy and time. When it comes to providing good guidance, you need to understand the issue at hand with deep listening. Thereafter, the chat may require a lot of time to evolve and put forward carefully considered suggestions. Based on the nature of help being requested, you may often have to suspend any critical judgements as well, for the duration of the chat. Chat GUI stays in our minds for a long time, and the seeker of guidance cherishes these conversations over most other types of meetings because of the direct value-add he or she receives.

Chat CRS

CRS is for crisis, and we face these moments often. Something goes wrong with an important project. A launch gets terribly delayed. There is a burst of trolling on social media. Two important team members are locked in conflict with each other. Chat CRS needs, firstly, an overall and specific sense of urgency. It needs us to keep calm amid the raging storm. It needs discussions around strategy as well as street smart thinking. Most importantly, it needs all participants in the chat to come together as a coherent team with just one objective, to resolve the crisis. You have to be ready for Chat CRS whenever it walks into your office. These are not the most sought-after chats, but we have to take them in our stride.

Chat NIP

Sometimes, you engage in a chat without any pre-defined agenda. We may call this Chat NIP, or Nothing in Particular. These chats can occur when you meet a colleague in the corridor, or when you just drop in at a friend’s work desk after lunch, or go out to a nearby coffee shop with colleagues. Do not underestimate these NIP conversations because they often end up producing excellent ideas, and also play a wonderful role in nurturing relationships. When you get into Chat NIP, you are not under any sort of performance pressure. Hence, your mind feels free to wander and speak about many things that have possibly been in your subconscious mind. This leads to wonderful conversations and this is also a great setting for new thoughts to emerge. That’s why we should make time to NIP across for these chats.

Harish Bhat works with the Tata group. He thinks real chats between real people are the lifeblood of any organisation. Read all his columns here.

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