Follow the Leaders
Whether it is with your boss, co-worker, or client, difficult conversations are challenging to manage, and the fear of failure can sometimes be paralyzing. The key to ensuring the best outcome for everyone involved is knowing how to manage the exchange.
Here are the crucial steps to ensure a smooth, successful, and productive discussion.
1. What is your purpose for having the conversation? What do you hope to accomplish and what is an ideal outcome?
2. What assumptions are you making about this person’s intent? Be cautious about making any presumptions.
3. Which “buttons” of yours are being pushed? Are you more emotional than the situation warrants? Be aware of your heightened emotional state.
4. How does this person perceive the situation? Are they aware there is a problem? What solution do you think they would suggest?
5. What are your needs and fears? What are theirs? How have either of you contributed to the problem?
No matter how well the conversation begins, you’ll need to stay in charge of yourself, your purpose, and your emotional energy. Your attitude toward the conversation will influence your perception of it. Being positive will impact its effectiveness. Be mindful of your body language.
Pretend you don’t know anything and try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s point of view. What do they really want? What are they not saying? Do you know all the facts?
Let them talk until they are finished; don’t interrupt them other than to show your understanding of what they are saying. Most importantly, do not take it personally. Your goal is to learn as much as you can.
Acknowledgment shows you are listening. Explain what you think is really going on from their perspective; anticipate their hopes and honor their position. People rarely change their position unless they see you understanding. Also, take ownership of your role, this will help move the conversation forward. Lastly, know that acknowledging and agreeing are not the same. Saying, “this sounds really important to you,” doesn’t mean you are going along with their decision.
When you sense that the other has fully expressed his or her side, then it’s your turn. Clarify what you think they may have missed and explain yourself without minimizing their point of view. For example: “From what you’ve told me, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I’m not a team player. But I think I am. When I introduce problems with a project, I’m thinking about its long-term success. I don’t mean to be a critic, though perhaps I sound like one. Maybe we can talk about how to address these issues so that my intention is clear.”
Now you can start building solutions. Brainstorming and asking questions are essential. Ask what they think might work and then find something you like and build on it. If the conversation becomes adversarial, go back to asking questions. The result will be sustainable solutions.
Additional tips and suggestions are:
Practice, practice, practice.
Use one of these conversation openers.
About the Author
Kevin Grey is a Fractional HR Director for Warren Whitney. He serves clients requiring senior level human resource leadership and organizational development expertise across Virginia.
Editors Note: Warren Whitney is a Sponsor of VA Council of CEOs. The article was originally posted here.