Learn how to keep a difficult conversation moving forward and free from distraction. In this video, Marlene Chism shows you how to redirect a difficult conversation that is headed for trouble.
- One reason we put off having difficult conversations is because we fear we'll lose control of the conversation. This happens when the other person says something that distracts you from your objective. The conversation takes a left hand turn and all a sudden, you're playing verbal ping pong. You've completely lost control. So, how do you keep the conversation moving forward and free from distraction? Before inviting the other person to a conversation, clarify your primary and secondary purpose.
For example, let's say Hannah, your employee, does great work but is always a day or too late with projects. The primary purpose of your conversation is to emphasize the importance of getting work turned in on time. Your secondary purpose is to understand why there might be delays. As you prepare for the conversation, try to imagine what distractions may arise. Perhaps Hannah will say something like, "I don't think this is fair," or "That's not how we did it before," or "My other boss was OK with it." "Other members of the team "think you're a control freak." What should you do if these distractions come up? You redirect.
For example, you ask Hannah to get her projects in on time and she says, "Other don't like the way you nitpick "about deadlines." In the past you might have gotten derailed, but now you say, "Hannah, that may be true, "but we're talking about you and your projects." Now Hannah has to answer your question or tell you why she's struggling. Either way, you fulfill your purpose and get to the root issue. But what if your difficult conversation is with a colleague? Let's say it's with Alex. You've noticed that he's used sarcasm towards you at company meetings, and it's embarrassing.
His behavior, though presented as a joke, undermines your credibility and hard work. Your purpose is to get Alex to stop making jokes about your work. As you visualize your upcoming conversation, you believe Alex will say something like, "Oh, I was just joking." You can respond by saying, "I understand, but I'm asking "that you don't joke about my work." But suppose instead he says, "Look, you're just being too sensitive." You can say, "Maybe I am being sensitive, "I'm just asking that you respect my wishes "and stop joking about my work." If he says, "Well other people don't mind "when I tease like that," you respond with, "Well maybe others are okay with it, Alex.
"I'm just asking you to stop." Did you notice the process that I used? You acknowledge the first part of their statement, and then you circle back around to ask for the preferred behavior. Make sure to pause afterwards to give the other person time to reflect on your request. Always keep your tone polite and neutral. Now, think about a conversation you need to have and identify your first and your secondary purpose. Brainstorm a list of distractions that may arise and then come up with ways you'll redirect back to your purpose.
Your best chances for success in any difficult conversation come when you're clear about the goal and can keep the conversation moving forward and free from distraction.
- Cite the circumstances that can make a conversation difficult.
- Recall what you should know before having a difficult conversation.
- Summarize how to control the direction of a conversation.
- Describe how to use radical listening to stay present in a conversation.
- Name the magic phrase to test for resistance.
- Name healthy habits you can develop to make difficult conversations easier.