HOW DO I APPROACH DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS?
It often seems that certain conversations will inevitably be a disaster.
But we think that instead of wasting energy and focus avoiding or agonizing over an upcoming conversation, you can ask yourself a few simple questions to make it constructive. It's a simple perspective shift that will make you approach the other person looking for solutions (rather than winning, avoiding confrontation, etc).
"Approach potential confrontations as constructive conversations, and start by assuming the other has nothing but the best intentions."
Why would a conversation with a co-worker be difficult?
Most likely something has occurred that made you frustrated or angry with your co-worker, and you're considering having a conversation to resolve the situation. What makes it difficult is that your interpretation of the situation is causing negative emotion, such as frustration or anger, and you feel pushed to your limit.
It's your emotions that make the situation feel like a confrontation, but really, you can resolve it by having a constructive conversation. Here are three things you can do to turn what could be a difficult confrontation into a constructive conversation:
- Establish the mutual goal
- What are you and your co-worker working toward that is a common goal? You can begin your conversation by confirming that the two of you want the same thing.
- Talk tentatively and state objective facts
- What are the events that you saw or heard? State what happened in measurable examples, and not your interpretation of the situation. And be sure to let your co-worker know that you are sharing an assumption and your interpretation could be wrong.
- Ask their perspective
- What does s/he think about what you said? End the conversation with taking a genuine interest in your co-worker's perspective of the situation, and allow him/her to share thoughts on your interpretation as well.
By following these steps to guide your conversation, you are taking a professional approach to resolving conflict.
For further exploration, we recommend two books that provide in-depth tools for having constructive conversations.
- Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
- Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler