Difficult Conversations

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, some conversations are just difficult to have. Although an introvert may find this to be the case more often than his/her assertive counterpart, the truth is, sometimes any of us could be at a loss for words.

I recall a great number of times when I struggled with conversation – all having to do with being honest. Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, I would rather tell a white lie than speak to someone’s faults, errors or inadequacies. Likewise, I had difficulty pointing out my own mistakes, especially when around those I knew well.

All of us are fairly good at communicating. We listen, voice, encourage, discern, account, question, connect, engage, articulate, inform, seek and understand. Yet when any of three key triggers grip us, we stumble.

The triggers are

when we think others will disagree

when our emotions are challenged

when we perceive risk escalating

At these times we will either handle the conversation well (at times this is the case), we will mishandle it (often the case) or we will avoid it entirely (at least a third of the time).

There is no one thing to keep in mind to improve our responses. In fact, moving from avoidance to participation and from mishandling to handling well requires us to do several things.

1. Manage yourself
Doing this means it’s okay to you that you make mistakes. You know lessons are learned this way, and as long as you follow through with the appropriate apologies and honest while supportive feedback, you can let yourself be a work in progress.

2. Use objectivity
Let information be information. What is true to one person may not be true to others, yet what is true to them should be validated. Although your emotions may be engaged, focus on facts. This isn’t about backing down. It’s about discovery – and that moves people forward.

3. Influence others
When people like and trust us, they allow themselves to be influenced by us. On the most basic level, respecting them can move them to like or trust us. What will it take for us to respect them before they even respect us? This step is critical to anyone in leadership as well as to those wanting influence in other circumstances.

With these steps also comes the need to frame conversations well, to be accountable, to plan in advance and prepare to connect well with your audience. Difficult conversations will always stretch us. Yet what we hope comes from them is practice, good experiences, respect and true appreciation for others.

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On May 24th, 2010, posted in: Connecting, Projecting, Self Value by