Difficult Conversations by Colette DavisColette Davis 2012
1Presenter-Module 1Intro:In the workplace communication skills are a vital part of acompany’s success rates. If employees are unhappy then thebusiness will suffer.Remember,a company cannot create a conducive atmosphere if theiremployee’s cannot understand each other.By improving communication between employees and among allrelationships it’s possible then to improve overall performancein the workplace and your bottom line.There are five keys to creating effective communication withinthe workplace and within relationships.First learning how tolisten effectively is imperative.Second coworkers, employees, and others need to learn how todisagree without arguing and how to offer constructive criticismwithout embarrassing or offending another person. Yet another keycomponent is learning how to negotiate within the workplace andin some cases among clients. As with any behavioral skills thataffect relationships with people inside or outside the companyits important to work with clients based on effectivecommunication skills.In this module you will learn the five skills necessary to use ina difficult conversation and how the application of it and theseskills will apply to many scenarios both in and out of theworkplace.Module 2:What is a Difficult Conversation?Defined: it is any conversation that a person is anxious about.Difficult conversations differ in how the individuals react orinteract with each but they all follow some basic concepts.First understand that painful feelings are at play whetherovertly or subverted. These can include feelings of hatred,anger, frustration and more.These detrimental ideas also put our feelings as an individual atstake. This means that self worth, and confidence will and can bedamaged. Also, within these interactions we see ourselves through
2the eyes of others like out self worth, and composure are atstake.“I have embarrassed myself” is a common thought for many peoplein these situations.People have many fears including those about future interactionswithin the conversation, and how the conversation may effectanother’s career? The policy and role within it may in fact becomplex.So how do you get your point across in a conversation like this?Presenter:Understanding Employee’s behavioral and interpersonalcommunication skills is important to any business.First it’s important to evaluate how knowledgeable they are inthis area. You may be great at communicating in the beginning.But this can quickly deteriorate without effective communication. It’s important to asses the level of your communcationknowledge. For instance, you can take an online interpersonal communicationcourse that assess your skills in order to see how well you matchup.Other ways to assess your interpersonal development is to visitthis online quiz site http://www.optimalthinking.com/quiz-communication-skills.phpAlso another step in developing interpersonal skills is simply bytaking this course as you are doing now. Cdi communicationsoffers skills business training as well, and there areUniversities that offer other modules.Module 3:There are currently three identifiable conversation shifts thatoccur within the bounds of a conversation. First is known as: The Basic Shift which is a way in which weneed to pinpoint our minds in order to have a positiveinteraction with a fellow employee, supervisor or client. This is
3a shift in your behavior completely and something that needs tobe learned.The most common mode of misunderstandings occurs when people arenot competently understanding the data that is thrown their way.This often results in a battle of messages which can bring a oncepositive and lucrative conversation away from any positive ideas.The person will not agree and then other will not agree. Theinteraction then becomes one of “I am right.”The prospect of resolution recedes further as frustration isconsistently building within the conversation. This thenconvinces the other persons place of interest and understanding.How can we solve thiese misunderstandings?A simply mode of interaction called the Learning Conversation.This is a productive means of communicating. At this point peoplebegin to realize that the other person has a perspective that wecannot understand. Since as human beings we cannot read eachothers mind it is important then and therefore to create anengaging dialog from a point of understanding rather than adomination.This type conversation is important to have with most colleaguesand clients. What’s great it that it will not sacrifice yourpoint of view and it means that you are as important as they are.It comes from a background based on mutual respect, and a giveand take philosophy.When you are giving bad news to another there will be no room fornegotiation which means that they too can be curious aboutunderstanding the other’s perspective. The ability to have alearning conversation develops as we create an integrated mindsetand follow the conversation models presented here.There is a helpful way to unhesitant what is going on in adifficult conversation.First examine what happened, then understand the feelings thatare and third identity. These are all processes within theconversation.Module 4How does a conversation disintegrate?
4We all know that to converse is a basic human need, andconversation is part of the inherent differences we as humanbeings have with each other.We each see the world differently.Why?Each of us notices things based on the world around us. Thereforeeach of us is different based on where we come from and where weare. For instance, a child born to parents in America in a rural townwill certainly find different things entertaining than a childraised in Sydney.Each person knows themselves better than anyone else and thus weknow the internal experience of it all will affect allconversations. It is intentional and unintentional.Each of us views the other differentlyFirst, we are influenced by our unique situations andperspectives. For example, a women whose family is strict andrarely discusses emotions or feelings would loose its ground ifshe suddenly discuss her feelings with them. This would force herfamily into a crisis situation.Now let’s look at another family in direct contrast thatdiscusses it’s feelings with each other and offers intimacy as aguideline, to act in a strict and guarded way would then createchaos in some form within this family.These examples are then easily applied to the workplace.Each of us lives differently with different rules. For instancesome of us may think that being on the computer for two hours isacceptable and to another it may be too long.Module 5How to handle feelingsToo often emotional feelings are deemed confusing. In factsharing feelings clearly requires a lot of thoughtfulness.First in order to find your feelings find your emotional map. Askyourselves what emotions are you comfortable with.
51. Understand that your feelings are normal and based upon where you come from.2. Understand that great people can have negative feelings as well and these will also affect the conversation.3. Understand that your feelings are as important as everyone else and you are important.4. Now it’s time to explore those feelings.5. Find the feelings that lurk under the accusations.Anoretic way to handle your conversations with understanding yourfeelings is to negotiate them. To understand what they are is thefirst step to this and remember above all NEVER VENT.Instead of venting or letting your emotions get the better of youit’s important to understand an alternate route that will betterprepare you for a conversation.First, make sure that you can place your feelings into theproblem, if they are real then you can address them easily withinthe bounds of the issue that you are having. They do not have tobe rational- but they can be relevant.Understand the spectrum of your feelings and evaluate them beforevoicing them. Remember not only to evaluate but share andexpress your feelings without blaming or judging another. Do not monopolize the conversation and remember both parties canhave strong feelings at the same time.Always use key words-including the words “I feel” in allconversations.Remember the imprints of acknowledging the other person’sfeelings and thoughts within the bounds of a conversation areimportant.You must first convey these by stating or affirming that youunderstand the line of thinking using key words that show yourdepth of understanding. These include words like “from what yousaid I gather…” and “Yes, I understand.”Always acknowledge your client, coworker or colleague.
6 Also try to avoid the words “you are right what can I say?” It’simpersonal, cynical and bordering on cynical.Module 5:How to respond to a difficult conversationExample:Sean and Carly work together in the office at a business. Carlyapproaches sean and asks him if he has a few minutes to talkabout somthing. She follows him to a private area and begins totalk to him. He is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with theconversation because she is griping about others and making lightof serious office issues. She is upsetting Sean and it’s veryunethical to him. She even admits that he has not been talking tohim because she knew he might feel this way. She still wants towork things out because she values the relaxed work environment.There are some assumptions we can garner from this.1. The colleagues feel hurt. They believe perhaps that the other meant to hurt and therefore it can breed resentment in the conversation.2. Feeling angry can lead to assumptions that can also breed resentment.Solutions:If Carly begins to garner that Sean is upset in the conversationthen perhaps she can then begin to understand his feelings with aproactive and positive response.To begin she may say things like: “I want to make sure that Ireally understand you here. It’s pretty clear you are experiencesmy behavior as attacked could you tell me why?”“Can you explain that?”“I see that you have avoided me. Would you mind telling me whyand how you are feelings?”“I would like to share my perspective on this situation how wouldbe for me to respond?”
7It’s a calculated and positive conversation based on a mutualagreement of complacency and understanding between any officedynamic.Module 6:Examples of Message Discombobulation:First Indication of Conversation breakdown1.I know all that I need to know to understand what happened. The goal of the conversation here is to persuade the other theyare right.2. I know what they intend to do here.Goal: Letting the other person know that they are wrong. “I’mright” thought processes are extremely caustic to anyconversation.3.It’s all their faultExamples continued with the Learning mode of Conversation whichis extremely helpful in dealing with difficulties. 4.Each of us is bringing different information and perceptionsto the table. Explore each other’s stories about how we understand thesituation and why.5. I know what I intended and the impact their actions had on me. I don’t and cannot know whats in their head. Share the impact and find out what they were thinking in orderto be able to find out what impact I’m having on them.Module 7:Exercise: Ask yourselves these questions:
8How do I treat people when a conversation leads to assumptionsthat are set out under a battle of messages.How do I react when I am treated this ay?What would my behavior be if I were able to shift to a morelearned mindframe?How might my results change?Module 8:Feelings are always a part of any conversation. If they are notexpressed whether with a client or with a coworker; then theyhave a way of exploding into a conversation.It can be hard to listen when you have not expressed yourfeelings. But expression of feelings can also be a trap.There is a difference between expressing them and venting.First-find your feelings. This may take some time for you to findyour emotional map or dredge through the various feelings.Understand these points first:Your feelings are natural reactionsRecognize that people have these feelings and learn that you areimportant as well. Also always try to have your feelings placedbehind a simple term or label.Module 9Moving difficult conversations to a positive outcomeA conversation can become difficult very quickly, but as we havediscussed there are several ways to alleviate this and keeping anopen line of communication.Remember, always be prepared and identify the problem. Make surethat in many cases you should clarify it before you continue on.
9This will entail you simply listen to the client’s, coworker orfriends needs. They may need a sounding board, and you shouldthen reaffirm what they have said to you.Make sure to use words like: “I see that you…” or “From myperspective…” or perhaps redirect the conversation with severalother keywords.Never tell them a simple statement like “I understand.” It leadsto a stalemate in the conversation. Or the other participant maythink you are cutting them short.Remember to establish your intention as well in the conversationand define where you want to end up as a result.What is it that this situation may affect? Always be prepared andknow that you will feel some discomfort in the conversations.For very difficult situations it is important look for others tohelp guide you in the conversations that you are moving through.However, know that the breakdown of communication will in facthappen in many cases without giving you ample time forpreparation.Module 10If the client is becoming belligerent.. Then you can address this. There is no reason to accept abuseform any one and if it questions your honor as a human being thatit may be a conversation that you should walk away from. It’simportant to give both parties time to cool down in thatinstance.Also demonstrate your concern for what you imagine it’s like tobe in his or her shoes. Try to understand your consumer, clientor coworkers feelings. Understanding by asking for clarity is notan agreement necessary but it is a key to understating theperceptions that may be misguided within the conversation.Use curiosity to help you manage your anxiety and foster an openform of dialogue with your clients or coworkers. Always ask openended questions.Examples of open ended questions are: How does that make youfeel? What has this been like for you?”
10So to go back through the entire process make sure that you fist1.Identify how the situation has affected you on an emotionallevel and inquire about how the other is feeling.1.Demonstrate your concern for what you imagine it’s like to bein his or her shoes. Always try to acknowledge and understand hisor her position.2.Make sure that you clarify the situation so that both partiesare on the same page.Module 11The Harvard Business Review has defined several mistakes thatenter into a conversation.First we try to oversimplify the problem. If it were that simplewe would not be arguing about it. To avoid this, make sure to useopen ended questions.Reaffirm the other persons’ concerns just to clarify and to letthem now verbally that you are following them.Second, most people do not bring respect to the conversation. Ifyou cannot respect yourself then you cannot respect your clientsor coworkers.To avoid a combat mentality respect the person you are talking toand yourself. Make sure that you respond in the conversation in awall that you can be proud of.Third in all conversations it seems that we either lash out orshut down. When this happens all productivity is shut downcompletely. Remember to quell this with reaffirmations-allconversations will not be smoothed out that easily but withcomposure and practice you will be able to focus on the outcome.The fourth mistake is reacting to another persons conversationnegatively. People may say something that lashes out and is meantto bring your conversation level down.When this occurs be sure to keep your self respect in theconversation. By engaging in a negative way you are in essencedeconstructing your own conversation.If the counterpart has stopped responding, which is another formof manipulation in many cases it’s important to end yourcontributions by saying “I don’t know how to interpret yoursilence.”
11All of these are huge mistakes. However if you take the rightroad you will be able to maintain a conversation even in the mostdifficult of situations.Module 12Difficult conversations are an essential fact of allcommunication in life. Communication is based on mutual respect,and positive enhancements.These difficult conversations when handled early can preventissues from reaching more formal stages which would includeloosing the clients, loosing a respectful workplace, loosing ajob and more. The losses really add up when we cannot learn howto create a positive atmosphere within a conversation.Learning how to handle these conversations is the key todeveloping essential skills within the workplace making it a moreproductive place for all involved.Difficult conversations are a large challenge because all of theaction that is focused on a single activity which is when theperspective become shifted.The anger, frustration, fear, excitement and more isdeconstructed down to those few moments where we have to bite thebullet to create the pivotal moment which could lead to morestress or on the other hand alleviate it all.Module 13Inquiring to learn is different from inquiring with crossexamination type questions-which do not allow for any completionor validation within the exchange.Cross examining your co-worker is not a solution instead itcreates a large information block. These questions emerge from aposition of trying to start from the idea of trying to persuade aperson instead of learning.Use the ideas constructively and pull out the statements. Ratherthan asserting them as true, share them as open questions and askfor the other person’s reaction.Rather than assuming that in an argument they have ignored yourassertions simply enhance the conversation by simply listening.
12Module 14Ask open ended questions: “Were you trying to ..?” or “How doesthis make you feel?” It’s ideal to get a response form them here.Ask for clarity or concrete information. This meats “Can you giveme an example? Or What would that look like?”Always ask at least three questions about the conversations. Forinstance ask them to say a little more about how they see things.Ask them to include information that they might have that you donot. Also other questions include:”Can you say a little more about why you think this is my fault?Were you reacting to something that I did?How are you feeling about all of this?Make it okay that they do not have to answer. People will becomedefensive in a disrespectful and misguided conversation.If they do not feel like they have to answer then they can reactby shutting down, counterattacking and accusing you havingnegative intentions.Paraphrase the conversation. This will make sure that they willunderstand you are indeed following this and are involved intheir issues.Check that you have understood the conversation. It’s hard tounderstand the conversation.Always acknowledge the feelings of the other participant, whetherit is a client, coworker or more.Answer the questions that have yet to be answered, validate theirfeelings and show them respect as a person.When you acknowledged the other persons needs you have notneglected their feelings nor have you asserted that they areeither right or wrong. You simply have created the conduciveatmosphere that is needed for a positive conversation to becomewholeThe most important form of understanding is from another person.Empathy is not only a conversation that comes within personal
13knowledge; in fact it is also part of the whole plethora ofissues associated with positive outcomes in many forms.An empathetic listener will be taken on journey with adestination that leads to successful outcomes both within thebusiness and in the personal relationships that you develop atall times.Conversations will easily turn to distrust if we cannot create amutual mood of understanding. Even the most detrimentalconversations in all aspects of business and relationships canbenefit form conversations that reaffirm the other’s feelings,clarify the needs and acknowledge each other.The backgrounds that people come from can be a deterrent toproductivity, once we are able to acknowledge that we can in factcreate a positive environment based on mutual respect that beginswith self respect we can create a positive atmosphere withclients, colleagues, professionals in other fields, personalrelationships and more.In some cases it may be important to set an internal time limit,so that when the same sequence has been created over and over itmay be time to attempt another tactic in order to create apositive conversation that will help you create an atmospherethat works.