9 Steps to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

March 12, 2019 by  

These 9 steps can provide you with a viable structure that will offer you the opportunity to have more meaningful conversations which will have a better chance to result in win/win outcomes. However, as with any system, please consider these steps to be general rules, and try to choose your words carefully in preparation for the exchange. Having a difficult conversation is no easy task, however, if you are going to become accountable and take back control of the situation, you must at least try to resolve the issue.

Here are the steps:

1. Prepare and practice your opening statement so that you can anticipate the possible comebacks and objections of the person with whom you are having this conversation.
2. Have this conversation in person, and best to choose in a neutral location where there will be few or no distractions.
3. State your intentions. Be clear on what you wish to have happen.
4. Clearly identify and describe the issue. Do this objectively and honestly.
5. Describe your emotions due to the experience. Again, try to do this objectively and honestly.
6. Objectively state the current outcome and how you would prefer to have a different one.
7. Identify how you may have contributed to this problem and how you will act differently in the future.
8. Indicate your sincere wish to resolve the issue in a satisfactory manner for both of you.
9. Invite your partner to respond, however, do not react if they take offence to this discussion. Remember, you are “criticizing” their behaviour and requesting a change. They may “attack” you for taking this approach. Stay honest and respectful in all your responses.

Once you have employed these guidelines, you will begin to feel more confident to speak your mind in the future. In addition, remember that having this difficult conversation once, may not solve the issue which means you may have to broach this subject again at a later date.
Being assertive is not a bad approach to difficult situations, however, it can be challenging to stay measured, honest, and calm when your “listener” is upset.
Be sure to thank them for hearing your side of the situation and if they do not concur with your expected outcome, offer to follow up later once they have had a chance to consider what you have offered.
You can also say that you wish to resolve this in a satisfactory manner because you feel that a good and respectful relationship is so important for high performance in the workplace.
We cannot make people change their behaviour, however, when we change ours, there may be a positive reaction to that change. In any event, you will feel better for trying to deal with this in an honest and respectful manner.

Are You Assertive or Aggressive?

February 21, 2018 by  

There is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive and it depends upon your approach.
Aggressive behavior will not usually get you what you want as it offends others. Aggressive people are the blaming finger pointers who insult and aggravate others by demeaning them in nasty ways. This usually does not result in a good outcome and often exacerbates the situation.
It is better when you feel that you have been offended or disrespected, that you do it in an assertive manner……meaning have the difficult conversation in an honest, calm, and respectful way. That does not mean that the person will easily accept what you have to say, as you are criticizing them, however, you will have a much better chance for a win/win outcome with this strategy.

Is it hard to have such confrontational conversations……however, unless they are a mind reader, the person who offended you may have no idea that they did so and anyway, you are the one walking around with the stomach ache. Therefore it is your responsibility to try to rectify the situation by having that difficult conversation. In addition, you must also realize that having that conversation once may not solve the issue and you may have to screw up your courage more than once in order to obtain a change in behavior. Nonetheless, if you do not tell them you are enabling that behavior and they will very likely continue it. This sort of issue could also be when a colleague does not follow directions or comply with the company policy, which could be having an effect on the productivity of the project the team is working on.
In addition, remember it is not a good idea to confront the person immediately after the event occurs as you will not likely be able to remain calm and respectful. It is better to calm yourself down and make a plan for what you will say, how you will answer to their retorts while keeping your cool and try to anticipate what might happen so you can prepare yourself for how you will react. However, if you wait too long, because it was something that bothered you and not the person who did it, they will likely not recall the incident. So try to prepare to speak with them in a day or so, if you can.

Here is a simple format you can use for this difficult conversation:
1. Describe:
Describe the situation objectively, without using judgment words.
2. Result:
Explain what happens because of that behavior.
3. Request:
Make a polite, specific request as to what you would prefer to happen.

Realize that the person may not be happy with what you are saying and may argue or get nasty. If that happens you should just say you understand why they may feel that way, however, you brought this up as you do work together and wanted to make sure that you could continue to do that in comfort. You might also let them know that it is affecting others and that you are sure that was not their intention. If they stay angry or later give you the cold shoulder, you should let them know that you were sincerely hoping that this could be solved amicably so that you could maintain a cordial relationship. In the end, we cannot make people do things they do not want to do and if a person does not want to change their behavior there may not be much we can do other than this…….if you wish to offer a consequence, such as…..”I really do not want to go to the HR manager or our manager about this as I was hoping we could just work it out ourselves. However, if that is not going to work, I guess I will have to escalate this to them. Then, if you must do that, do it!

This is definitely not an easy thing to do, and many people will do almost anything to avoid having a difficult conversation, nonetheless, conflict does not disappear on its own and if it is not dealt with it can erode morale in a workplace, so better to “bite the bullet” and deal with it.
In the end, remember to stay positive, polite, calm, and honest whenever having such an exchange and be very aware of your body language. In other words, pay attention to your tone of voice, the volume of your voice, your stance, the look on your face as well as your gestures. Because if these do not match and reinforce the respectful words you are using, they will likely obliterate them and the person will feel that you are attacking them and they will very likely just want to attack you back.
Being assertive is not an easy task, however, if you practice it you will get better at it and have less conflict and stress in your life.

Are You an Effective Communicator?

January 5, 2016 by  

Many of us feel we are good communicators because we have had years of practice….been doing it since we were born! However, the truth is that most of us are not very good at it and as a result we experience much conflict, confusion, resentment, disappointment, complaining, even anger.  So how can we avoid those outcomes and enjoy more win/win outcomes, more of what we want along with higher productivity, efficiency and creativity?

Here are some great tips that will help to improve your communication skills.

  1. Practice Active Listening, the most important communication skill. The more you listen, get clarification that the message you sent was the one received and that the person not only heard what you said, but also processed the content as you wished and arrived at the expected outcome for that exchange, the happier both of you will be! This attentive, focused listening will result in less miscommunication and therefore better relationships in all aspects of your life. Try it not only at work but also at home.
  2. Try to understand with whom you are speaking…..are they a controlling type of person who has little patience for the anecdotal version of anything because they are very organized, competent and decisive. Are they a supportive sort of person who requires clear, specific directions, encouragement, support and reassurances that they are doing things as expected. Are they an analytical type of person who needs more time to gather sufficient data in order to make a decision or design an appropriate system or process as requested. Finally, are they a promoter type person who relishes attention, has loads of ideas but has trouble organizing themselves to actually get things done. No matter who they are, if you can determine their personality type you can then adapt your communication style to suit their perception of situations which will make your message easier for them to receive and interpret as you wish.
  3. It is important for all of us to become accountable for our actions and deeds as well as when dealing with others. There is no point in walking around with a stomach ache if you feel someone has offended or disrespected you in some way, they are not a mind reader, so you must let them know how you feel, but do it in an honest and respectful manner. If that does not work, next try to come up with a strategy to overcome this issue so that you no longer are feeling badly. Finally if that does not work either, you may have to leave the situation in order to save yourself.
  4. If we are going to deal with situations we often need to be assertive. There is a fine line between being aggressive and assertive….be sure to state your opinion in an honest and respectful manner and be prepared to have to do this more than once in order to get what you desire. In the end, you may not get exactly what you want, as we cannot make people do things they do not wish to do, however you will feel better for having spoken up and tried to “fix” the situation.
  5. We must realize that men and women do not communicate in the same way, therefore, again, we must adjust our communication style to suit whichever gender we are conversing with. Women are fond of the anecdotal version of the day or issue, men usually are not, they prefer the key points and will ask for more detail if they want it. Women often talk about feelings and generally are concerned more about process and inclusion, rather than the direct outcome. Men are more focused on the outcome and results. That does not mean that women do not like results, they do, but may reach them in less direct manner.
  6. Dealing with difficult people is bound to occur at some point so realizing that often they are behaving as they do as a result of some previous experience, it is not truly “about you”. The behavior is their way of maintain control, deflecting blame from themselves or avoiding making decisions. In order to deal effectively we need to try strategies that do not take away their power or make them more defensive. In the end, we may not win, but we can try leverage their strengths to both their and our advantage but listening well and being assertive as necessary.

If you can employ some of the tips offered above I expect you will enjoy more win/win outcomes, less miscommunication and ultimately more creativity, productivity and happiness. When we are happy we also enhance our immune systems, so as an extra bonus you will also be healthier!

How to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

April 6, 2014 by  

These 9 steps can provide you with a structure that will offer you the opportunity to have more meaningful conversations with more likelihood of win/win outcomes. As with any system, consider these steps to be general rules, and choose your words carefully in preparation for the exchange. Having a difficult conversation is no easy task however, if you are going become accountable and take back control of the situation, you must at least try to resolve the issue.

1. Prepare and practice your opening statement so that you can anticipate the possible comebacks and objections of the person with whom you are having this conversation.
2. Have this conversation in person, in a neutral location without distractions.
3. State your intentions.
4. Clearly identify and describe the issue.
5. Describe your emotions due the experience.
6. Objectively state the current outcome and how you would prefer to have a different one.
7. Identify how you may have contributed to this problem.
8. Indicate your sincere wish to resolve the issue in a satisfactory manner for both of you.
9. Invite your partner to respond, however do not react if they take offensive to this discussion. Remember, you are criticizing their behaviour and requesting a change. They may attack you for taking this approach. Stay honest and respectful in your responses.

Once you have used these guidelines, you will begin to feel more confident to speak your mind in the future. In addition, having this difficult conversation once, may not solve the issue…you may have to broach this subject again in the future.

Being assertive is not a bad approach to difficult situations, however, it can be challenging to stay measured, honest and calm when your listener is upset.
Be sure to thank them for hearing your side of the incident and if they do not concur with your expected outcome, offer to follow up later once they have had a chance to consider your offer. You can also say that you wish to resolve this in a satisfactory manner as you feel that a good and respectful relationship is so important for high performance in the workplace.

We cannot make people change their behaviour, however, when we change ours, there may be a positive reaction to that change. In any event, you will feel better for trying!

The Communication Handbook

July 4, 2013 by  

Clear communication is such an important skill in every aspect of life that I decided to write a book about the 5 Secrets to Effective Communication….how to build strong relationships at work, at home and at play.
The book offers strategies for 5 elements of communication. A description of Effective Communication sets the stage in chapter one.

Active Listening; the key communication skill is the second chapter.

Accountability; the personal empowerment through problem solving skill comprises chapter three.

Assertiveness; knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner is the subject of chapter four.

Gender Differences in Communication; how men and women communicate in very different ways, is explored in chapter five.

Personality Typing; knowing with whom we are having an exchange so that we can flex our communication style to be impactful is described in chapter six.

Finally, I offer a summary of what is covered and challenge the reader to begin employing these most valuable skills in their daily lives so that you can reduce the conflict in your life, increase the productivity, the efficiency and the creativity, as well as enhance the happiness factor in all that you do. If you do this you will enjoy much more success in everything all your experiences.

When the book is published, it will be made available on this site….if this interests you…keep an eye on Soft Skills for Success.