Anticipating a difficult conversation can be gut wrenching at times. We let our imagination go in so many different directions as to how the person might respond or even react. We make assumptions and judgments before we even walk in a room. No matter what the difficult conversation is, I am always surprised in some way as to how the conversations turn out. Not only do I learn a little bit about the other person, I learned a lot about myself.
As I reflect on some challenging situations in which difficult conversations had to be had, I may prepare and plan and there will be sometimes the plan needs to get pushed aside because the unexpected occurs. There will be times when a conversation doesn’t go as planned. There’ll be more times that your conversation will go better than expected if you are able to recognize your own emotions and how they are serving you before you enter the conversation.
By taking a coach approach to a difficult situation, you help others become self-reflective and more self-aware. When a person is self-aware, change may begin. You can step into a difficult conversation with ease when you go win with the expectation that the unexpected may occur.
1. Be open minded. When you enter a conversation, Park your judgments and assumptions at the door. Your preconceived ideas only taint the situation. If you come from a place of curiosity you will learn so much more.
“The single most important thing [you can do] is to shift [your] internal stance from “I understand” to “Help me understand.” Everything else follows from that. . . .
Remind yourself that if you think you already understand how someone feels or what they are trying to say, it is a delusion. Remember a time when you were sure you were right and then discovered one little fact that changed everything. There is always more to learn.”
― Douglas Stone, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
2. Trust the process… Detach from the outcome. Ask questions that allow you to gain more information and then ask more questions. Allow the person to share their story. Avoid asking “Why?” or “How?” as these questions tend to put people on the defensive. Ask “What?” questions to explore.
3. Let go-don’t take things personally. When emotions are high, people can say and do things that they normally wouldn’t say to you. Long-winded e-mails or e-mails in CAPLOCKS say more about the other person than they do you. Do not respond right away especially if your emotions have shifted to high. You may choose to pick up the phone or meet in person instead of making assumptions about a person’s intent or tone in an email.
A person’s reaction or response is based on their perception of the world or situation. It is up to you to learn and understand what that perception is. Their reaction is often not about you; it’s how they feel about the situation. They may be triggered by something in their past or even their environment and you have no clue what that may have been.
4. Acknowledge the courage it takes for the person expressing themselves. It takes a lot of energy to have the courage to be vulnerable in front of your peers or colleagues. Take notice of the effort it takes to share their feelings as no one wants to be seen as weak and often this is what hinders people from asking for help when it is truly needed.
5. Clarify any misunderstandings. Now that you have heard the other person’s perception, ask for permission to share yours. This is your opportunity to ask more questions or further discuss each other’s perceptions of the situation.
6. Discuss next steps. Everything is laid out on the table. Now you have the opportunity to talk about the next steps and how you plan to move forward together. There may be times when you agree to disagree. No matter what the situation looks like there needs to be a plan to move forward. What will that look like?
7. Express gratitude. Thank the other person for meeting with you to have the discussion as this was an opportunity to be curious and to learn more.
When you take the time to be fully present in open, you become curious and willing to gain a full understanding of the situation. You don’t allow hearsay or your imagination to dictate what the outcome may be.
There have been times when people have vented their thoughts and I do know what to say. What I learned is that if I ask questions and stay curious I can discover what the ideal is that the person is trying to express. I can read frame they’re venting energy and ask them what that ideal is. There have also been times when people have been so overwhelmed in their lives that they didn’t hear a person’s concern or see the help that someone was offering until there was some quiet time to self-reflect. I find these to be some of the most rewarding conversations because there is no agenda and there is a free-flowing dialogue in which everyone is heard, valued, and appreciated. Be open to expecting the unexpected by using a coach approach to a difficult conversation and you will be pleasantly surprised.
DEBRA KASOWSKI, BScN CEC is an award-winning best-selling author, transformational speaker, blogger, and Certified Executive Coach. She has a heart of a teacher and is certified in Appreciative Inquiry and Emotional Intelligence. Her writing has been published in a variety of print and online magazines. Debra Kasowski International helps executives, entrepreneurs, and organizations boost their productivity, performance, and profits. It all starts with people and passion. Sign up the Success Secrets Newsletter and get your free mp3 download today! www.debrakasowski.com