We have all been there, we spend moments in the day being more frustrated than we should because we are avoiding having “that conversation”. A conversation that might make us uncomfortable, add to our “to do’s” and create disagreements.
The thing to really stand back and consider is what is the risk if you don’t have that conversation and who and what is being impacted by the lack of action.
To start with it is about switching the mindset and allowing yourself to think that having these kind of conversations are about being clear and that its just the right thing to do.
The important part of any conversation is being ready, so that it creates a place that allows for a “safe” environment to have a disagreement. As after all we want all involved to be able to understand the ask and challenge where they don’t agree so that before we move to the next part of our day; we have clarity on expectations.
It’s in the “how” that makes the difference and below are our top tips to help you get prepared so you get the result you need:
1. Be prepared – know exactly what points you need to discuss and in which order.
This is often the “missed step” and yet the most important. Having the order will keep you calm and focused!
2. Have examples for each point and make sure they’re recent, or they’ll lose impact.
For each point have objective information that shows the facts of why the conversation is needed. Too much subjectively / opinion will only lead to unwanted conflict and you will loose the purpose for why you needed to chat in the first place.
3. Use silence – don’t be tempted to fill in the awkward silences, even though it’s really hard! Did you know the average person can take up to 8 seconds to answer a question…. Try sitting still and silent, whilst opposite someone for 8 seconds! Oh it can be uncomfortable but let them hang and allow the other person to tell you what’s really going on.
4. Don’t make assumptions – ask the right questions and listen to what you’re being told.
It can be oh too easy to pre-empt what the person will say, so you get that feeling of “that was a good chat” without really hearing what’s going on. As tempted as it is… stay open-minded… you never know what you might learn!
5. Challenge – listen to what you’re being told, but make sure it’s all fact and you’re not being fobbed off.
There is a risk when you are uncomfortable to just “agree”, the risk increases when you are not prepared… so the big tip here is don’t miss step one….if you do you might just find you agree with what you are told as you cannot lean on facts.
6. Don’t rush through it because it’s uncomfortable – you’re in it now, so get out of the discussion what you, the organisation, and the other person, needs.
Sit “in it”, yes it may be awkward but stay still, stay calm and focus on how you and the person needs to leave feeling and what they need to leave knowing. If you achieve those two things, no matter how uncomfortable.. you will have a win!
7. Agree next steps with timeframes and measurable objectives – that way there’s no disagreement if you need to progress to a more formal process.
At the end of the chat, there can be the tendency to “rush off” with the sheer relief that it is done. However just stop a minute make key agreements so that there are clear expectations and you have a strong reference point for all future discussions
8. Follow-up in writing – this makes it clear for everyone what’s been discussed and what’s happening next.
The good old admin bit! It’s easy to think this final bit is not important… but it’s like not tying a bow tightly enough… it will just unravel and then there was no point in all the effort you just put in!