Most of us add value to our organizations (companies, teams, families) not by virtue of our technical competencies, but rather by our ability to relate to and with other human beings. That relating is primarily through conversation. A routine conversation can become crucial in an instant (just ask any parent of teenagers). In the workplace there are plenty of risky conversations: asking for a raise, holding a peer accountable, challenging an idea proposed by the boss.
Do you remember the last time you had a conversation that didn’t end up well? Five minutes into it the shouting and finger pointing exploded like fireworks on the 4th of July. Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, we have these types of conversations with our business partners, distributors and even loved ones from time to time. What really triggers a conversation to go arie? And, what can we do to avoid this in the future?
We all face situations in life where things are tense and saying the right things is crucial. As opposed to a casual discussion, crucial conversations happen between two or more people when opinions vary, stakes are high, and emotions run strong. Whether you are approaching a boss who is breaking his or her own policies, critiquing a colleague’s work, or talking to a team member who isn’t keeping commitments, keeping the conversation productive can be very difficult.
The free flow of meaning between two or more people find a way to get all relevant information from themselves and others out in the open and make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool. These people try hard to ensure that all ideas find their way into the forum; and as this “pool of shared meaning” grows, it helps people by exposing them to more accurate and relevant information so they can make better
You’ll “Learn to Look” for “silence” and “violence” (clam up or blow up) behaviors that are deadly to relationships. You’ll discover “Make It Safe”
skills that enable you and others to navigate through the most risky subjects. You’ll learn to “Master Your Stories” by distinguishing more clearly between observations and conclusions, facts and assumptions. You’ll learn skills that make it possible to listen with a level of empathy you never thought possible.
One of the reasons a conversation turns from normal to well, difficult, is because either party forgets the purpose of the conversation or conflict is avoided at all costs. Things are “smoothed over” or ignored completely. The reality is that the payback is just delayed and there are negative consequences. Those discussions we dread and often sidestep because we anticipate they will be confrontational. And then on the occasions when we can’t avoid them, crucial conversations are the encounters that tighten our stomachs, put our egos on the line, and threaten personal and professional relationships.
More positively, crucial conversations could open opportunities for us to share our feelings and opinions without fear of reprisal in a truly safe
environment. We avoid getting forced into false either-or choices and remain alert for unstated alternatives or possibilities. Well….well…!!!