Hello to All,
We are half through 2016. What really drives you? What motivates you? What gets you excited? The better we understand ourselves, the easier it is develop the strategies to make this the best year yet. The easier it is to grow. Be sure to discuss growing with your coach. Your coach will hold you accountable for how you want to grow.
This month I would like to revisit a very important
| Tough Conversations: Talking Over What Really Matters
Some conversations are so difficult that we do anything to avoid them.
Then, when things have really built up, we finally have no choice
but to confront the issue, the colleague, our spouse, or the other
person with whom we feel so uncomfortable. "We need to talk," usually
precedes an argument rather than a conversation. Why are such conversations
difficult? Because we are stuck between knowing what we really feel
and knowing what we shouldn't say. We are distracted by what's going
on inside and uncertain about what is okay to share.
There is so much going on between you and the other person, it is
confusing. And, if you didn't care on some level about your relationship
with the other person, you wouldn't be struggling with this in the
first place. Conversations are difficult because emotions get involved.
Emotions are generated in that part of the brain called the amygdala.
It is a more primitive part of the brain. When stimulated, it calls
the body into fight or flight mode.
Humans are genetically hard-wired to react to emotional triggers by
either fighting or fleeing, two actions which had survival benefits.
Those humans who were able to fight successfully, or to flee danger,
survived and reproduced. Therefore, we are genetically predisposed
to fight or flight. However, we are now supposed to be socially conditioned
to operate in more "civilized" ways. It is no longer appropriate to
throw stones or draw fists or guns. We are supposed to handle things
with conversations. Are we much different now than our ancestors?
This explains why we all have impulses to either blast someone or
to avoid them altogether. We are in fact not hard-wired to sit down
and talk it over with someone when there is a problem. A Map of the
Territory What if there were a map to follow when you had to have
a difficult conversation? What if there were steps to consider and
directions to follow? Untangling the complexities of difficult conversations
and breaking them down to basic components would make it easier to
say what needs to be said, and still preserve relationships.
Fifteen years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project has produced
some interesting information about what goes on during conflict. The
book, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, is
written by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher
(Penguin Books, 2000). Given that in life we prepare ourselves extensively
for almost everything including our educations and careers, it is
surprising that we haven't studied conversations more. Now there is
some data to help us to have effective conversations, especially when
they involve conflict. All difficult conversations share a common
structure. To see the structure, we need to understand what is being
said, and also what is not being said. We need to see what both people
are thinking and feeling but not saying to each other.
Understanding the underlying structures of conversations makes them
easier. There are basically three kinds of conversations, no matter
what the subject. In each of these kinds of conversations, we make
predictable errors that distort our thoughts and feelings.
- The "What Happened?" conversation. There is usually disagreement
about what happened or what should happen. Stop arguing about
who's right: explore each other's stories and try to learn something
new. Don't assume they meant it. Disentangle intent from impact.
Abandon blaming anyone and think in terms of contributions to
- The "Feelings" conversation. Every difficult conversation
also asks and answers questions about feelings. Are they valid?
Appropriate? Should I admit them or deny them? What about the
other person's feelings, will I hurt them? What if they get
angry? Often feelings are not addressed directly and so they
interfere with the conversation even more.
- The "Identity" conversation. This is where we examine what's
at stake: what do I stand to lose or gain? Am I competent or
incompetent, worthy or unlovable? What impact might this have
on my career, marriage, self-esteem, our relationship? These
issues determine the degree to which we feel off-centered and
Every conversation involves grappling with these three components.
Engaging successfully requires learning to operate within each
of these three domains. Managing all three simultaneously may
seem daunting, but it's easier to do than facing the consequences
of engaging in conversations blindly. Taking the time to consider
each of these factors before having the difficult conversation
is a first step to handling conversations better.
Here are five steps to consider when engaging in difficult conversations:
- Decipher the underlying structure: what happened, what the
feelings are, how identity is involved
- Interpret the significance of what is said and what is not
- Identify the erroneous but deeply ingrained assumptions that
keep you stuck
- Manage strong emotions, yours and theirs
- Spot ways your self-image affects the conversation, and ways
the conversation affects your self image
| What You Can Change, What You Can't:
No matter how much we prepare we can still get tangled up in conversations
where what happened is more complicated than initially presumed. We
will have information the other person is unaware of and there may
be things we can't share. We will face emotionally charged situations
that feel threatening because they put important aspects of our identity
at risk. In these cases, look at what we can change instead of what
we can't. We can change the way we respond to these challenges. Typically
we enter into difficult conversations prepared to explain our own
view points. What is needed is to hold off until we explore as much
as we can the other's person's perspective. Enter into the conversation
with a learning objective. Don't assume that you understand enough
to explain things. Sometimes a third party can help facilitate difficult
conversations. Talking it through with your personal coach can help
you decipher the underlying components of a difficult conversation.
Your coach can help you examine your assumptions, your emotions and
your personal identity. You can have difficult conversations in a
way that improves relationships instead of risking hurt feelings.
What is the biggest challenge you have encountered when having difficult
conversations? What has helped you the most? I would love to continue
this conversation with you.
Please contact me at 312-842-4577 or email me by clicking here
Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices started: Relationships, Joy, Questions, Abundance, Prosperity, Debt Reduction, Love, Sharing, and Giving are just a few ideas. Find the one word or phrase that you really want to focus on. Then begin to think about all the ways you can use your energy to get really good at that one thing.
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