difficult conversations

Difficult conversations just got easier

Some of the more frequent areas we are asked to work on with individuals and teams include enhancing communication skills, conflict management, and difficult conversations. These are not lightweight conversations and while some may enjoy the challenge ‘conflict’ brings, others are skeptical or even averse to engaging in the difficult or potential conflict evoking conversation.

So what is it that makes difficult conversation hard and why do we say it just got easier?

Difficult conversations require courage, emotional intelligence, and savvy communication and leadership skills – no matter what title or role you hold in an organization, including with your family and friends. It also requires you to have some sense of personal power, in other words – work on yourself and your personal development rather than worry about fixing or correcting the others in the conversation. Sounds simple, but it is challenging. We know this from our work and from our own personal development. It’s why there are so many resources to support us in developing communication skills, dealing with conflict and having those challenging conversations. We each have our favorite authors and influencers in this area, and we’ve appreciated what we’ve learned and applied as part of our own development, personally and professionally. Notice our inclusion of ‘applied’ in the previous sentence – the application of what we learn is really important to integrating learning into practice. This principle is what spurred us to create Back Pocket Coach as a tool to use for applied learning, practice, and ultimately habit to approach those potentially challenging or difficult conversations with ease.

Click here to get Back Pocket Coach on Amazon Kindle!

Self-reflection

We saw successful clients challenged by bully bosses and boards as they devolved into emotional turmoil rather than address from a place of strength. We know it’s hard to be strong when people are yelling, and unfortunately bad behavior still happens far too often in all types of places in organizations.

So how can you combat bad behavior and stay strong?

Try strategy #26 in back pocket coach: Assume positive intent. No matter what the other person is saying or doing remember they are human and they are probably doing the best they know how to at any given moment in time – even if it seems like they should know better. So Assume positive intent – Working with others can be challenging. Our emotions may cause us to question their intent or motivation, especially when they seem to be in opposition to ours. Next time, try this: Before assuming you “know” what the other person’s intention is, ask! Then methodically reflect back what you hear them say. This simple act of clarifying will calm your nervous system and allow you to set the tone for a positive dialogue.

Remember, you have the power to make the difference!

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #20: May I ask a question?

MAY I ASK YOU A QUESTION

Have you ever been in a meeting that has gotten off track and no one, including the meeting organizer, seems to be able to get everyone refocused? Or you’re having a 1-on-1 conversation with your supervisor or colleague about a specific topic and, before you know it, the conversation has veered off course and devolved into something completely irrelevant? There is a brilliantly simple method you can use to refocus a meeting or conversation in a way that respects the people involved and, at the same time, gets everyone back on topic. Simply ask the person responsible for the digression: “May I ask a question?” In a meeting an example of a question could relate to a specific agenda topic. As in, “Earlier you mentioned…which I found extremely relevant to our programmatic goals. Could you elaborate on this?”

When you ask this question, several things happen. First, you are asking permission to enter the conversation, which respects the person who is speaking. Next, asking the question implies your interest in his input. And, if you do this in a meeting, it can also serve to elicit participation from someone who has not yet spoken. Ask the question, then follow with, “I’d like to hear Bob’s thoughts.”

Try “May I ask a question?” You will be amazed at how well this works. And it will also strengthen your connection with the other person.

Strategy #20 “May I ask a question?” | www.BackPocketCoach.com | @RossCoach | @CoachDianeB

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #13: I may need to renegotiate our agreement.

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #13 I may need to negotiate our agreement.We’ve all had the experience of agreeing to something we were not able to deliver on. It’s a horrible feeling when you disappoint another person, not to mention disappoint yourself. Breaking your agreement could have happened for a legitimate reason. Or perhaps you miscalculated the time required to complete a task. You may have even believed that saying no was not an option, so said yes when you should have discussed it first.

Regardless of the reason, breaking agreements can strain even the best relationships and impugn your credibility. The good news is, there is a simple strategy you can use to effectively manage the agreements you make.

First, understand that agreements are verbal contracts, so take seriously every agreement you make. Next, only agree to what you know you can deliver. That said, sometimes an unforeseen conflict can make this impossible. If this happens, renegotiate your agreement immediately! This gives the other person a chance to look for different options, and it preserves your standing as a conscientious person of integrity.

Finally, the next time someone makes a request of you, don’t feel compelled to say yes on the spot. Try this: Let the person know that you would like to accommodate their request, and that you first need to review your current commitments to make sure you can confidently agree to their request.

Doing this telegraphs the message that you take your commitments seriously and that you are someone they can count on.

Strategy #13 | www.BackPocketCoach.com | @CoachDianeB | @RossCoach

Back Pocket Coach Strategy #7: May I give you some feedback?

Back Pocket Coach Strategy # 7May I give you some feedback-Delivering feedback is not an easy process, and it is even more challenging when the message is potentially negative.  Just the thought of this type of conversation commonly evokes emotional turmoil for both the giver and receiver. Frustrations with an employee, boss, colleague, or other that are not addressed can lead to apathy and an “it’s never going to change” mindset that demoralizes you and others. And, if the situation has existed for awhile, you may need more than one conversation to resolve it. Also consider that the individual may have no clue there is a concern, because no one has really given him feedback. You or someone else might have hinted, but how clear was the message, and how self-aware is he?

In their book Thanks for the Feedback (2014), Stone and Heen encourage “creating pull” for receiving feedback as opposed to pushing through the resistance. The authors reinforce the value of creating pull for one’s own reflection and personal development.

Pulling or drawing someone into a conversation makes it easier to engage. It is also a smoother transition into a feedback conversation with them. So how can you deliver feedback with more ease and engage the individual in the conversation?

  1. Check your emotional readiness. What do you need to be at your best and ready?
  2. Create a safe environment for the conversation. Avoid open areas where others might overhear the exchange.
  3. Begin with the question, “May I give you some feedback?” Asking permission invites the individual into dialogue and offers him a choice to participate. It is a respectful way to gain agreement to proceed with the conversation, and it helps the person be more open to hearing what you have to say.

Remember, asking a question like “May I give you some feedback?” is an invitation into a conversation. When we give people a choice to engage, they will be more likely to participate and actually hear what we have to say.

Strategy #7 | www.BackPocketCoach.com | @CoachDianeB | @RossCoach

Strategy # 8: Can we continue this conversation later?

another interruptionHave you ever been in the middle of a critical deadline when someone stops by to chat? Or racing to your next meeting and you hear, “Do you have a minute?” as your energy drains at the thought of yet another unexpected conversation. It’s difficult to say anything other than “sure” when you really want to scream, “No, can’t you see I’m busy!” When challenged with how to respond to interruptions, clients often refer to an open door policy - meaning immediate availability, no matter what. The all or nothing thinking that says, there is no other choice than to stop what I’m doing and handle the situation. Feeling no choice in the matter shuts down brain processing and sometimes even the ability to respond with anything other than the habitual “sure.”

How do you excuse yourself from the interruption while maintaining your relationship and rapport with the individual? You might say: “I’d like to continue this conversation, and right now isn’t going to work. When are you next available to talk?” Think about the typical interruptions in your day, and consider a few variations of “Can we continue this conversation later?” You might practice these with trusted colleagues or a coach so you’re prepared to respond in a way that supports positive relationships and rapport and sets the tone for mutual respect instead of frustration.

BPC image wTM

Strategy #8 “Can we continue this conversation later?” www.BackPocketCoach.com