How do you approach a touchy, but important, subject with someone at home or at work without damaging the relationship?
This has always been a challenge for me, and for most people I know. Because we are afraid the conversation will damage the relationship we tend to avoid it or dance around the issue, which in the long-term is more damaging.
An effective conversation starts with first understanding what you are trying to accomplish with the conversation? Do you want to show who is boss? Win an argument? Shame them? Defend yourself? Dump your uncertainty, anxiety on them?
I learned at the “Crucial Conversations” class, given by Vital Smart that the objectives of crucial conversations are to:
(1) Get facts
(3) Build the relationship
(4) Get a productive result
If I focus on this and not on any emotions, anxieties, etc., it will go well. I try to avoid these conversations when I am upset or have strong emotions. It makes it about me rather than the four objectives. Is it a good time for them? I try not to be the coach to yell at the kids in the outfield to “keep your eye on the ball” right after they drop it. They are too embarrassed and self-shaming to listen to coaching at that time.
Timing is important.
The basic outline that often works is a 3-step approach.
- Give the facts (no one can dispute real facts)
- I wonder… (express your concern)
- “How do you see it” (get their perspective)
I start with the belief that I do not know. I just have a hunch. Also, I try not to be accusatory and have a calm tone. “Why would an intelligent, reasonable person do this” is a good mindset.
“Joe, I observed when you were talking to Cindy that you interrupted her three times in the conversation; I noticed you interrupted Juan twice when he gave his side of the story. I am wondering if interrupting people is a reason you are struggling building your team. What is your perspective?”