5 Tips for Tackling Crucial Conversations
Talking about sensitive issues is never easy, and nor is giving feedback that will potentially upset someone. But avoiding a crucial conversation because you’re worried about the outcome will only enlarge the problem.
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That said, if sparking crucial conversations fills you with dread then you’re not alone. Given the risk of inciting conflict or seeing somebody’s emotions turn sour, it is only natural to approach these conversations with trepidation.
We’re all prone to hoping evolution will take its course and the infringing party will see the error of their ways, allowing everyone to move on in a conflict-free manner. But, in real life, such passivity can negatively impact your position in the workplace, taint your relationships at home and ruin your enjoyment of the local pub quiz.
Being a clear and direct conversationalist is a key asset for people from all walks of life, so here are five tips for tackling crucial conversations.
Have a plan
Before diving into a crucial conversation, it’s important to be clear about the ultimate objective. Determining the end goal will help you figure out the key points that need to be communicated. You should write these down in order to develop a better understanding and to lodge the key points into your memory.
Don’t be a robot
While it’s essential to plan and rehearse the key points, you’re not preparing a performance of airtight theatre. You still need to speak patiently and display good listening skills. Try to be as empathetic as possible, which means considering things from the other person’s point of view even in situations where you feel betrayed or deeply disappointed.
Leave out insults
Flinging insults or backhanding someone with rejection is a sure path to conflict. If criticisms are necessary, try framing them in the light of alternative courses of action. I.E. instead of directly criticising someone, instead point toward the sort of behaviour you want to see.
Be wary of distractions
A crucial conversation will ideally allow for the turning of a new leaf — afterwards you want to see action and progress. For this to happen, it’s vital to stay on track.
It’s easy to get distracted by snappy rebuttals or someone’s attempts at smooth-talking their way out of a conversation. To safeguard against this, don’t be hasty with your reactions and keep up a steady breathing pattern. Thoroughly think about your responses, always keeping the end result in mind.
Nip problems in the bud
Crucial conversations get harder the longer problems are left to ferment.
Whether it’s laying down rules in the workplace, imparting bad news to a friend or asking for a considerable favour, failing to have the conversation puts a wheel clamp on any progress.
Try to get in the habit of identifying and discussing problems as soon as possible, as they arise. In a workplace scenario, this doesn’t mean micro-managing or nit picking. Rather, it’s about recognising situations in which you can offer guidance, or simply being assertive when you witness foul play.
In all instances, calmly address the other person, maintaining good eye contact and leaving out emotional pleas. Directly addressing problems is far preferable to passive aggression. And, when handled correctly, crucial conversations will lead to better productivity and strengthen relationships.
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Want to learn more?
Happy hosts several Crucial Conversations workshops with experienced facilitator Dez Veares. The techniques gained from these workshops will equip you with the skills to talk with almost anyone about almost anything.
We run three different workshops around Crucial Conversations:
- Introduction to Crucial Conversations for Staff — a one-day workshop identifying the basic concepts and techniques, giving immediate results and positive change. This next runs at Happy on 16th December.
- Crucial Conversations (2 day) — giving a more indepth look and opportunity for practice.
- Crucial Conversations for Managers and Leaders — this has been designed to enable managers, supervisors and team leaders to hold emotionally charged and challenging conversations at work. This next runs at Happy on 24th February 2020.
These workshops are available as private inhouse groups for your organisation, which can be held at your workplace or at Happy’s HQ — contact us for availability and pricing.