Confrontation. Tough talks. Crucial conversations (Grenny, Switzler, McMillan). The idea of having a tough conversation in any interpersonal context is enough to send someone in a stress sweat. But why? Well, as humans we resist what we don’t know. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, if your brain is doing that for you then kudos, your brain is doing a great job at keeping you alive. The point is, the idea of having these tough conversations can be so stressful because we feel ill-equipped to handle them well. Now, of course, even the most gifted of communicators can go into a tough meeting and speak with all the tips and tricks they have gathered, and the person receiving the message can still respond out of anger. The real kicker is that people are unpredictable. We do not know how someone will react to bad news, criticism and the like. But what if you could be given some tools to help prepare you for these conversations? What about conversations that didn’t start out heated, but you blinked and realized you have a coworker/employee that is furious and so are you? No worries, with the help of our author friends Joseph Grenny, Al Switzler and Ron McMillan (authors of Crucial Conversations), we can provide some tips and tricks for you to best navigate these situations.
First ask yourself if you’re in a crucial conversation; are their opposing viewpoints, is there a lot at stake, and are the emotions high? If you can answer yes to at least 2/3 of these, chances are you have found yourself in a crucial conversation. The next thing to understand is that this is OKAY! You won’t always agree. In fact, having an opportunity of opposition can be a great thing. It can give a glimpse into how much concern there is for the work; as in, it’s really hard to be passionate about something you’re apathetic about. These situations pose an opportunity for closure and bonding through resolution, and the opportunity to create a pool of shared meaning. People feel emotionally attached and supportive to systems they can see their “fingerprints” on. If you are creating opportunities for inclusion, even if it came out of a heated discussion, this will turn out to be a very favorable endeavor in the long run.
Another question to ask yourself is; what do I want out of this situation? If you find yourself in a position where you are about to unload on your coworker/employee and take a second to ask yourself that question, 9/10 the answer will not be “I want to absolutely berate this human being. Really teach them a lesson.” If instead, you can answer, “I want each of us, and our company, to profit through our efforts. How can we make that happen?” Pursue that! You should always be in the business of mutual profitability (I’ll talk more about that in another blog post, so stay tuned).
Lastly, be empathetic and ask questions. You have asked yourself several questions to this point, and good for you, by asking yourself these questions, you have certainly saved this conversation from completely going off the rails. Here’s the thing, somewhere along the way we forgot that our coworkers/employees are human beings before they are a timecard and production machine. What does it cost you to be a little more patient, to dig a little deeper and trust their perspective? If you are a CEO, supervisor, really anyone that leads people, you have the fortunate responsibility of looking out for others. You owe your people the dignity to pursue them as individuals as well, pursue a mutually profitable scenario at all costs. You will have to humble yourself, you will have to trust your people more, and if you do this consistently, I guarantee your production and engagement will skyrocket.