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Making Difficult Conversations Easier

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    • 1. Making Difficult Conversations Easier Mostafa Ewees (PhD) Stanford University at California Assistant Professor at German University in Cairo (GUC) EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT An Info people Workshop 2008 Presented by:
    • 2. This Workshop Is Brought to You By the Infopeople Project Infopeople is a federally-funded grant project supported by the California State Library. It provides a wide variety of training to California libraries. Infopeople workshops are offered around the state and are open registration on a first-come, first-served basis. For a complete list of workshops, and for other information about the project, go to the Infopeople website at infopeople.org.
    • 3. “ Success Covers a Multitude of Blunders.” – George Bernard Shaw
    • 4. Goals for Today
      • Learn how to “approach” a difficult conversation in a way that assures success.
      • Learn to understand the factors that make some interactions more uncomfortable then they should be.
      • Learn the basics of good interpersonal communication - that makes all conversations easier.
      • Learn how timing and focus can help us make difficult conversations - easier.
      • Learn how to set goals and priorities so that difficult conversations have positive outcomes.
      • Learn the incredible value of reframing in difficult conversations.
      • Learn to recognize and deal effectively with “difficult personalities
    • 5. Our Agenda
      • What Makes Difficult Conversations Difficult?
      • The Basics - Better Interpersonal Skills Make for Easier Conversations
      • Turning Conflict into Cooperation
      • Face to Face - Walking the Walk & Talking the Talk
      • Comments, Thoughts, Conclusions, Evaluations
    • 6. Part I What Makes Difficult Conversations Difficult
      • Let’s remember to think in terms of “individual context.”
        • Different conversations are difficult, for different people, for different reasons.
      • The “difficulty factor” often increases when we:
        • Assume that the other person thinks, or feels, the same way about the problem as we do.
        • Make assumptions about their motivations.
    • 7. Please remember, we’re only human. It is impossible not to make mistakes that may offend others. And, if we are very diligent, we can always manage to be offended.
    • 8. So, Again, What Makes Difficult Conversations Difficult? Is It Difficult Subjects?
      • Like What?
      • ?
      • ?
      • ?
    • 9. Is It Difficult Contexts?
      • Like what?
      • ?
      • ?
      • ?
    • 10. Is It Difficult Roles?
      • Professional roles?
        • What roles?
      • Personal roles?
        • In what way?
    • 11. Is It Difficult Personalities?
      • Traits? Habits? Responses?
      • What makes someone difficult?
    • 12. Is It “Chemistry”?
      • What makes bad chemistry?
      • What makes good chemistry?
    • 13. Some of It Is Fear But of What?
      • The outcomes?
      • Reactions?
      • Consequences?
      • The conflict?
      • Social/conversational discomfort?
      • ?
    • 14. Exercise #1: Your Most Difficult Three?
    • 15. Your Most Difficult Three... Do You See a Theme?
    • 16. Secondary Gain So, what are the benefits of being difficult to talk to?
      • In a psychological context, secondary gain is a term used to describe any “less obvious” benefits of non-productive behaviors or conditions.
    • 17. Exercise #2: Aaaggghhh!!! I’m Not. But, if I were, where would I be difficult to talk to? I Don’t. But if I did, where do I get a secondary gain from being difficult?
    • 18. Part II - The Basics: Better Interpersonal Skills Make for Easier Conversations
    • 19. Attending Skills Are 65-85% of the Game
      • Your posture and body language create a feeling of involvement on your part.
      • Appropriate body movements and attention create a productive atmosphere.
      • Use eye contact appropriately.
      • A calm, quiet, environment allows for better communication.
    • 20. When Is Physical Contact Appropriate?
      • In a professional context – perhaps shaking hands as a type of greeting.
      • In a personal or friendly context (where there is a pre-existing personal relationship).
    • 21. When Is Physical Contact Inappropriate?
      • Whenever there is the slightest chance that it will make someone uncomfortable.
      • When it is incongruous with the social context, situation, topic, or preexisting relationship.
    • 22. Exercise #3: First, Let’s Have an Easy Conversation
    • 23. Exercise #4: Now, Let’s Have an Easy Meaningful Conversation: an Exercise of Interpretation, Insight, and Analysis
    • 24. Part III Turning Conflict into Cooperation
    • 25. Everyone hits the target they aim at, dead center – every time. Unfortunately, a lot of us are aiming too low – or else we're simply shooting at the wrong target.
    • 26. Exercise #5 Let’s Identify Some Scenarios
      • What are some situations that are likely to be difficult for you?
      • What makes them difficult for you?
    • 27. Accept the Undeniable...
      • Wishing that the dynamics or realities of the current situation were different from what they are will not change or improve the reality of “what is.”
      • In a sense, that wish is what has made the situation as difficult as it is.
      • Often what makes a difficult conversation difficult, is that an issue WILL NOT go away on its own. We have to do something – or it stays bad.
    • 28. In a sense we can learn everything we need to know about resolving a problem from a sign we see at any mall in the country...
    • 29. X You are here
    • 30. The First Rule See Solutions
      • We usually make two mistakes...
      • We convince ourselves that there is only one perfect (usually unattainable) solution.
      • We get desperate and convince ourselves that there is no solution.
      • ...usually, neither is true.
    • 31. The Second Rule Acknowledge the Difficulties
      • If the conversation or subject is difficult, say so.
      • It’s OK to say what aspect of the conversation is difficult for you.
    • 32. The Third Rule Remember We Are Only Half of Any Conversation
      • Ultimately, we can’t control how people feel or what they think.
      • We can only do our best.
      • This is both scary and liberating.
    • 33. Keep Light No “Position” Is Totally Intractable
      • Identify the subject - this is harder than it seems.
      • Often we find that the difficulty is not what we “assumed” it was.
    • 34. Use the Magic of Reframing
      • " Framing refers to the way a conflict is described or a proposal is worded; reframing is the process of changing the way a thought is presented so that it maintains its fundamental meaning but is more likely to support resolution efforts...
      • "The art of reframing is to maintain the conflict in all its richness but to help people look at it in a more open-minded and hopeful way."
      • -- Bernard Mayer, in The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution
    • 35. Outcomes and Solutions
      • Don’t stand on principle.
      • Don’t make “winning” your goal. There may be nothing to win.
      • The goal is to MOVE FORWARD!
    • 36. Focus Have an Outcome In Mind
      • Difficult conversations are not casual chit-chat. Don’t pretend that they are.
      • Compartmentalize your emotions.
        • Emotions are not thoughts! They tell us something important is going on – but they don’t tell us what or what to do about it.
        • That’s what thoughts are for.
    • 37. ... A quick word about emotions...
      • FEAR – throws you into an anxiety filled future
      • ANGER – drags you into a revenge colored past
    • 38. Exercise #6 Master the Zen of “No”
    • 39. Separate the People From the Problem
    • 40. Helping “Difficult Personalities”
      • Don’t be a slave to the emotions/tactics of others.
      • The Liar
      • “ Ms Fragile”
      • The Easily Insulted
      • The Instigator
      • And Other Favorites...
      • The Bulldog
      • The Bully
      • The Blamer
      • The Martyr
      • “ Mr. Teflon”
    • 41. The Big Question Confront or Avoid?
      • Timing is everything: the “Broken Window Theory” tells us to address problems quickly...
        • Before incidents turn into patterns.
        • Before small problems become large problems.
        • Waiting is guaranteed to turn a molehill into a mountain.
    • 42. It’s Usually Not “Fact or Fiction”
      • It’s More Like Rashomon – there are often several interpretations to every story.
      • Hidden Issues? You Bet! Frequently what you are arguing about is never the actual problem.
    • 43. Part IV Face to Face Walking the Walk & Talking the Talk
    • 44. Use Good Following Skills to Keep Track of the Conversation
      • Get started - calmly identify the subject
      • Acknowledge your own difficulties in addressing the existing problem – speak for yourself and not for them
      • Ask useful questions – don't assume you know someone else’s motivations or thoughts
      • Silence is golden – allow them to speak. Don’t speak for them.
      • Acknowledge, don’t challenge their feelings.
    • 45. Don’t Know How to Start? Try Something Like This...
      • "I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.”
      • "I’d like to talk about ____________ with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view.“
      • "I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?“
      • "I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)?" If they say, "Sure, let me get back to you," follow up with them.
      • "I think we have different perceptions about _____________________. I’d like to hear your thinking on this.“
      • "I’d like to talk about ___________________. I think we may have different ideas on how to _____________________.“
      • "I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about ___________. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well."
    • 46. Feelings Before Facts
      • Feelings carry more weight than facts.
      • Address your feelings in the dialogue – be open and honest.
      • Ask them about their feelings and acknowledge them – don’t make assumptions.
      • Recognize, acknowledge, and verbalize that feelings are very important – but realize they don’t necessarily dictate actions or outcomes.
      • Be Honest. Be Honest. Be Honest about yourself.
    • 47. Making a Difficult Conversation Successful Is the Sum of All Its Parts. Even When Done Correctly It Is Still Difficult.
    • 48. Exercise #7 Difficult Conversation: Step by Step Practice
      • Take turns role playing a difficult conversation using the scenarios you created.
    • 49. Discussion, Questions, Observations...
    • 50. DON’T FORGET… Please fill out an evaluation before you leave. Thank you and best wishes!

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