Join Britt Andreatta for an in-depth discussion in this video Clarifying your goal, part of Having Difficult Conversations (2013).
At the heart of every difficult conversation is some kind of problem we're trying to solve. Something isn't going as it should, and we want to make it better. The first part of the reflection phase is to focus on what you want to achieve. This step is really important and will guide the rest of the phases, so take time to do this step properly. Now, the answer might seem obvious. For Scott, he might just want Joe to stop demeaning people. And that's certainly part of it but it's not at the heart of it. You see, when we're in a difficult situation, our perceptions get bound up by the rungs of our ladder.
They literally box us in. To discover what we really want we have to step off the ladder just for a moment and give ourselves permission to dream bigger. To get at the heart of what you really want, I recommend this simple process. Again, we'll use Scott as our example. Our goal is to get at the heart of what he really wants. Ask yourself the question: what do I want? Scott: For Joe to stop demeaning me and others at work. Britt: Then ask yourself, if I had that, what would it get me? Try to phrase it in the positive, what you want, as opposed to what you don't want.
For example, Scott might initially say. Scott: Well, I wouldn't feel so stressed about all the time, and I would feel so angry at Joe. Britt: And he would rephrase that to. Scott: Well, I would feel more relaxed and I'd actually enjoy my work again. Britt: Then ask it again, if I had that what would it get me? Scott: I could get really excited about our projects and enjoy working with the team. Britt: Then ask it again and keep going until you feel done. You'll get to a layer where you'll say yes, that's it that's it, that's what I really want. Then write it down as a statement starting with the words I want. For Scott he wrote.
Scott: I want to work on interesting projects with a fun and engaging group of people, and contribute to a successful company. Britt: Can you feel the difference? This is Scott's real goal and it's much more motivating than Joe needs to stop demeaning people. Another way to do this activity is to imagine that you have a magic wand. When I coach clients, I ask the question. If you could wave your magic wand, and create that perfect blank. In this case, work environment. What would it look like? Then follow up with a few rounds of what else, until you feel done. For some people, fantasizing about perfection is easier than stepping back from a difficult situation.
So, pick the method that feels right for you. By the way, all of these techniques are actually skills I learned in my coaching training. While they certainly apply to difficult conversations, you can use them anytime you need to help yourself or others gain clarity about something. Using the exercise files, do this process for yourself, so that you're clear about what you really want.
Along the way, learn the secrets of turning difficult conversations into successful interactions that enhance communication and rapport. Improve both your professional and personal relationships, finding your way back from conflict through mutually successful outcomes.
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- Understand why conversations go badly
- Define the influence of power structures and patterns in a difficult conversation
- Identify observable behaviors and use them to focus on facts and on how behaviors affect the business
- Control the direction of a conversation
- Build a blueprint from which to structure a conversation
- Identify and prepare for resistance during a difficult conversation
- Identify the conversational choices available to you when others resist your efforts