Difficult conversations – one golden rule + 6 top tips
Does anyone really like conflict or confrontation? Yes / No
Having difficult conversations can be nerve-wracking and potentially damage relationships … wonder if you agree. Yes / No
Want to sail through the challenge (nearly said smash it and then thought a bit confrontational), feel more confident and find the best outcomes. Yes / No
Whether you answered yes to all or no to all or a mix of yes and no we can all dramatically improve how we deal with those conversations that we imagine / predict / assume will be awkward, difficult, confrontational, messy even. Why? Because none of us is perfect. How? By trying out even on of the 6 top tips and seeing what result we get. Or remembering the golden rule.
The Golden Rule
Remember it is not what is said, it is the way you interpret it. Be objective. Be conscious. Let go of the emotional, keep a sense of proportion, don’t take it personally. It’s the behaviour not the person
Expect a positive outcome. Mostly what you both want though the outcomes you have in mind might be different. Step into the perspective that both want a positive outcome. Simply a question of how to work in partnership to achieve that result. It might take time. Lots of listening. Great solutionising. Ooodles of patience and understanding too.
Tell it like it is. Fudging issues doesn’t help. Take the direct route. Aim for clarity. No confusion. Be frank and honest in a polite and respectful way to get to the point quickly. Be aware of cultural differences in communication style. Work out what the other’s behavioural preferences are to aid how best to communicate with them. Put the challenge or problem on the table at the start so it doesn’t become the elephant in the room. This is a helpful strategy as it sets the scene for solutions.
Listen. Listen. Listen some more. Check your understanding of what the other person wants. And that you understand what they are saying. Check. Check. Check that you both understand what the challenge or issue is. Clarity is essential. Confirm that you both agree. Make sure you both understand each other’s point of view.
Procrastination is the perfect fuel to accelerate potentially difficult conversations into the stratosphere. Deal with it NOW! Delay only helps resentment grow beyond reason.
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare more. Rarely are difficult conversations unexpected. If they are, you need to discover why. Plan. Plan. Plan your argument. Make sure you are clear. Brainstorm possible solutions. Make sure in the conversation there are moments for time out as it were.
Check out your assumptions. Sit in the other person’s chair. We’re not always right can come as a shock. The airline industry has it sorted. Whenever there’s an airline crash, investigators are on the case straight away to find out what went wrong and make changes so it doesn’t happen again. Finding who to blame is not the aim. Solutions are!