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Friday 8th August 2014

Having those difficult conversations

Have you ever had to have a conversation with someone that you know is going to be tricky? Can you think of time when after the event you have wished that you had handled something better? 
Well you aren’t alone, having ‘difficult’ conversations is just a fact of life. Maybe it’s a supplier who hasn’t produced a piece of work to the specification you required, maybe it’s a member of staff who is consistently underperforming or maybe it’s a client who is quibbling over the bill!   How we approach these situations, what we do and say will have a lasting impact so getting it right is critical.
Firstly we need to ask ourselves … why are conversations difficult? Generally because they fall into one of the following broad categories:
  • Your are trying to get someone to do something they don’t want to do
  • You are going to tell something they don’t want to hear
  • You are going to have to tell someone how you feel
All these things come down to our emotions - how we feel, our concern of offending others, concerns about how our message will be received. But we need to put this to one side and focus on getting on with the conversation!
When considering a difficult conversation, focus on the end point, the solution, rather than the conversation itself.
A successful outcome is likely to be:
  • Where there is a win:win and both sides feel comfortable with the way forward
  • Where everyone feels listened to and understood
  • Where the relationship is enhanced as a result of it
So there are 3 simple steps!
Step 1 – see the situation from their point of view
And I mean really see it from their point of view, understand what their motivations and needs are. Suspend your needs.
Try not to let your pre-set ‘filters’ get in the way
And develop an empathy for that persons view point
Step 2 – Actively Listen
Active listening is more than just hearing the words, it is not passive it is Active.
This means checking your understanding by asking questions, clarifying points that you don’t fully understand and reflecting back to the other person what has been said so they realise that you do understand what they are saying.
Step 3 – Be Flexible
There is no point going into a difficult conversation with an entrenched view as it will become a game of verbal ping pong with nothing being achieved.
It is likely that you are going to be asking the other person to change their view/standpoint but you have to be flexible and willing to change too.
So to finalise in dealing with difficult conversations you have 2 options.
You can either PUSH someone to do something or PULL them to.
If you push someone, it is going to require you to be highly persuasive to get them to come around to your point of view
If you pull someone you understand their motivations and make it compelling for them.
Pulling someone is much easier than pushing them, and results in higher levels of agreement, for a more sustained period.

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