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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 topic....

 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? Genetically, no.

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.

    1. 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 problem.

    2. 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.

    3. 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 anxious.

      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:
    1. Decipher the underlying structure: what happened, what the feelings are, how identity is involved

    2. Interpret the significance of what is said and what is not

    3. Identify the erroneous but deeply ingrained assumptions that keep you stuck

    4. Manage strong emotions, yours and theirs

    5. 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

Final Thoughts:
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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Jerry Pinney
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Jerry Pinney & Associates
102 East 32nd Street
Chicago, IL,
phone: 312-842-4577

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