At one time or another, as a leader, parent, family member or friend, we are all faced with conversations that are uncomfortable or awkward. One of the secrets of great leadership is being able to initiate these conversations. Uncomfortable conversations take both courage and planning!
The first 15 seconds of your opening frame counts! If the first few seconds is angry or abrasive in any way, you'll spend the next 20 minutes trying to rebalance so that you can get your message across.
When planning your frame, choose the specific parts of a subject you will focus on and what elements you will exclude. Frames influence both by what they highlight or emphasize as well as what they understate, overlook or completely leave out.
In the last blog post I gave examples of how to use the other person’s values in your opening. Again, examples of values might be: being a team player, being accountable, or being supportive. This value-added link opens the receptivity of the receiver.
Next, ask for their input and listen deeply to their perspective. As you move forward in the conversation, here are a few other things you might want to remember. These items will keep the conversation positive, upbeat and future focused.
- Highlight the positive outcome you want for the relationship and situation.
- Describe the gap between where you are and where you would like to be.
- Keep your language non-confrontational and inclusive. Use 'we' whenever possible.
- Use positive open gestures and body language.
- Stay focused on the goal!
I will be delivering a one day program on this very subject at The Center for Strategic Education in Melbourne on August 12th. Please join me!
One of the great challenges in our professional and personal lives is communicating in difficult situations. People often avoid difficult communications hoping the need for them will go away. Others avoid them because they don't feel skilled enough to communicate in a positive, clear and specific tmanner. Most of the time a combination of these is prevalent and exacerbates the avoidance cycle.
In the diagram below, notice that any conflict, whether internal or external, can throw us into avoidance. In the specific situation of difficult conversations avoidance often leads to one of three things. We might try to ignore the situation, hoping that it will go away. We might emotionally withdraw from the situation not wanting to invest ourselves any further. Finally, we might try to appease the person, even though we may inwardly resent the feelings of imbalance in the relationship.
The challenge with any of these, is that resentment and frustration build. Then the communication can go awry at the most inappropriate time. Below are three keys to moving past discomfort and avoidance so that you can have a positive conversation even when the subject is challenging.
- Plan your conversation - Ask yourself WIIFT (What's In It For Them). What are the other person's goals and values? Intentionally frame the conversation with their values, not yours. Then use a 'no blame frame'. Show that you value them and their view point. (In the examples below the other person's values are in bold print.)
- Listen - Ask for their viewpoint and then listen to what they say. In depth listening blends mind and heart as well as sensing feeling and intuiting. It includes listening beneath the lines to the implied as well as the literal meaning of what is being said.
- Brainstorm together - Once you have communicated and listened. State your goal and engage them in coming up with ways to move forward together.
- "I know how resourceful you are in different situations and I need your help with something. Do you have a few minutes to talk?"
- "I respect your professionalism and efficiency and I have something I wanted to discuss with you that I feel will help us work more effectively together.”
- “I value your creativity and your innovative spirit and I'd love to get your ideas on ________. Then I'd like to lay out a plan together that would involve the team in the change process.
- "You’re such a progressive thinker that I’d like to get your perspective on _______ and then together we might brainstorm some ideas to improve our process."
I will be doing a full day on giving feedback in difficult situations with CSE in Melbourne in August. I hope to see some of you there!
It has been a challenge getting to the internet while I've been on the road. Right now I am on wifi in active, energized and noisy Starbucks in Palm Springs, California.
My 93 year old mother took a dip in the last 2 months and my brother and I are getting her settled into a facility here in the desert. Mom has been healthy and cognizant all her life. She worked until she was 72. She remained very active in the years after that and the suddenness of the dip came as a surprise to me.
As I awakened this morning reflecting on all of these things, my heart rose up in thankfulness. I have seen with deep insight the true beauty and the seasons of this gift called life.
There are the years of childhood with its hopes and dreams of a future of one's choosing. Then there is the time of family and the 'command and control' years of professional life and career. These are followed by the play and harvest of your earlier work years. And finally the waning years and, if you are lucky enough to live that long, comes the season of frailty and the realization of vulnerability.
And so my thoughts turned to my Great Gratitudes - the things above all things that I am most grateful for in life. It was with humility and appreciation that I reflected on these as I was rising in the early desert dawn. This entire piece and what follows are directly from my morning journal.
- Mental Health - This includes strength of mind and memory. Clear cognitive ability and the ability to stay mentally focused. My uncle is 101 years old and he is still clear minded.
- Physical Health - If you have it , keep it with diet and exercise. Because if you live long enough you will need your body to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible. I know because I have 5 living relatives over the age of 95. My mother is not included in that number because she is youngest of all at 93.
- Emotional Health - This includes a high level of optimism and joy for both fill the heart and support every aspect of health and well being. The other aspects of emotional health that I am most grateful for are patience, self-control and resilience.
- Social Health - For me, I am ever thankful for family, friends and loved ones as well as the inner gifts of compassion and empathy. My daily prayer is that my heart be gentle and full of understanding and that my soul be giving and forgiving.
May all the seasons of your life be filled with awe, wonder and gratefulness. And may all of us be thankful for each day for these days of our lives are passing more quickly then we know.
My deepest apologies to all of you parents and teachers who were with me for those two wonderful evening events in Melbourne. That you all came out to discuss the issues we are addressing for your children and for the three schools involved was inspiring. Parents are often tired after a full day of work and though that might have been the case with you, all of you showed up and stayed for the full evening.