How To Achieve Results From Difficult Conversations

Anyone can become angry, that is easy. But to become angry at the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not easy. (Aristotle)

The first step to change is to acknowledge.

  1. It is important to acknowledge the ABC of human behaviour: antecedent, behaviour and consequences. Antecedents are the reasons behind a behaviour. Behaviour is the observable action. Consequences are the result of the chosen behaviours. Utilising this ABC method will help you think of the big picture, think of the unsaid words and not to take things at face value. There are always multiple antecedents and multiple consequences for any behaviour.
  2. Next are three strategies to modify behaviours: positive and negative enforcement, positive and negative punishment and competing behaviours. Also, keep in mind what are the elements mentioned by Malcolm Gladwell that are needed to create meaningful work: complexity, autonomy and relationship between effort and reward.
  3. Additionally are three points to remember when holding a tough conversation: speak in a live person form only, omit the dont’s and use strengths-based language.
  4. Be aware if you are acknowledging traits versus acknowledging behaviours. Traits are a combination of behaviours while behaviours are observable actions. Examples of traits include arrogance and tardiness. An example of behaviours include allowing spelling mistakes in the final edit. Avoid using trait-based language and gain clarity through discussing desired behaviours. Behaviours are easier to change. Hence, list traits and break them down into specific behaviours that need to be changed.
  5. Always check if the other person is on the same page. This helps clarify and clear misinterpretation.
It is about what you say and how you say it.

Respect the other person enough to allow them to own and experience whatever emotion that arises from the situation. The actions that occur as a result of these emotions may or may not be appropriate at work but the emotions are okay. Emotions are not the enemy; we always have a choice about what we do with our emotions. Give others the respect to make this choice themselves.

Any time you are dealing with tough stuff, remember that it is human emotions that is tough. There is no way of getting around it; there will be emotions and you will have to deal with them. When an amygdala hijack occurs, even once, — when it takes over, it shuts down pathways that include pathways to logic and rationality.

Judge behaviours, not feelings and emotions and you will go a long way. Choose empathy over sympathy/apathy and you will go a long way.

My tough stuff to talk about is when others start to gossip. I try to either work around it or retreat. Almost always, I would not go head on with the chaos as I feel ill-equipped to contribute and feel that it is not in my position to be involved. I know that it is better to avoid nearly all of such behaviours in office but a valid point to be a part of gossips is that such watercooler conversations reflect how others think. Coming from an upbringing where reputation is important, I feel that knowing how to have difficult conversations is crucial. An example would be knowing how to make a decision for the team without hurting the feelings of those who opposed the decision. I would want the other colleague to think well of me even after I have to share a piece of news that upsets her. Having the end in mind and with the strategies learnt from the book titled Dealing with the Tough Stuff by Darren Hill, Allison Hill and Dr Sean Richardson, I hope that it helps you too.