Did you tell them that?

That is my favorite question that I use when someone is telling me about the dynamics of working with their manager or a friend.  They feel that they are not being listened to, appreciated, recognized etc.  You name it and I bet you I have heard it.

The normal response is “No, I have not; at least not yet”.  However the not yet never changes.

I always marvel at how good the narrative is when they are telling me their side of the story.  The logic makes sense.  The thought flow may need some work but overall they have laid out a very good summation.

And with all that being said, it still comes back to “no I have not discussed this with them.


The angst of the encounter

The reasons are numerous to mention, but basically it boils down to not being able to have a difficult conversation.  So what happens is that they are in mental turmoil.  They will stay in that state if they do not deal with it.  And you become mental bricklayer because every other situation will just sit on top of the previous one.

All because they do not feel comfortable having a one on one with whoever.

The mere thought of having these difficult conversations fills all of us you with anxiety, and distracts you from other work. You don’t want to play the bad guy, and or have the situation to blow up in your face. As much as it’s tempting, you don’t want to just avoid the whole mess, either. You want to take charge and talk about it – effectively. But how?

There’s not an app for that

I recently read a good book called Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. It’s a short read that talks about “what matters most” — even when the subject is really, really uncomfortable. In this crazy business environment, when you’re having more difficult conversations than ever before, the tools the book offers are indispensable. 

Here are some of my favorite, action-oriented tips:

1.     Keep your goals realistic. You can’t ever eliminate the stress you feel but you can reduce it. Take the time to prepare and develop your script.  Remember you are having a conversation, not a confrontation.

2.     Give bad news upfront. Tough messages should be simply and clearly stated in the first sentence. “Mary, this is the problem I am having with XYZ that I would like to discuss with you” State the problem

3.     Adopt the “And Stance”. Take control of the conversation by pre-empting distractions, objections and blame by using “and”. “I know you worked all night, and I know you want to do well, and I know you just joined the company, and I know the graphics people sometimes get the data wrong, and I know I could have been clearer in my directions to you….” And, and, and.

4.     Get out of the “blame frame.” Each person involved in the situation has a different objective story about what happened. Your goal is not to judge who’s right and wrong, it’s to manage to better outcomes in the future.  In every situation, I have always felt that there are always 3 sides.  My side, Your side and the Truth.

5.     Paraphrase. Always paraphrase, “So what you are saying is….”  It creates clarity and lessens the chances of being misunderstood

6.     Do not focus on a bad reaction.  Focus on a positive reaction.  the point is to have a conversation: the same as the one that you had with your friend when you told them the story.

7.     Be prepared to listen. The person that you are having the conversation with will have their side.  Therefore you should be prepared to listen which is the same courtesy that you want from them.

So next time you hear yourself talking to someone about someone and why you are upset, think about this post and follow the steps to deal with it. 

You can reduce a lot of stress in your life, once you master the art of having a difficult conversation.


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