Many of us feel frustrated, concerned, upset, or discouraged at some point during the working day. A common reason for this can be disagreements with a manager, a colleague or even the strategic direction of the team or organisation.
Yet, almost none of us voice these opinions in ways that get positive long term results. We either shy away from sharing our thoughts because we’re afraid to disagree with the majority or suppress our thoughts until we eventually explode. And so, we drift from silence to violence. So, if neither approach allows us to express our opinions in a positive way, why do we choose to use them?
We go to silence because we fear crucial conversations. Crucial conversations are interactions where stakes are high, opinions differ and emotions run strong. We avoid them because we believe it’s impossible to be both honest and respectful when discussing difficult topics and that attempts to do so will make the situation worse.
We then move to violence because we are unskilled at having crucial conversations; when it matters most, we perform our worst. We let our emotions take over and begin to label people, make accusations, use guilt trips and exaggerate the problem with sayings like “you always…” or “you never…” as well as other forms of verbal violence. Sometimes, this can achieve the result we’re looking for, but it is only ever a short term outcome with negative long term repercussions.
Being able to hold crucial conversations effectively provides us with opportunities to share our opinions, enhance working relationships and contribute to decision making. Here are six crucial conversations tips to positively impact your working day:
- Reverse your thinking. We tell ourselves stories about the possible negative outcomes of starting a dialogue. It is important to also consider the possible risks of NOT speaking up. What does your default future look like then?
- Stop talking. When you notice the conversation is turning crucial, take a step back and pause. How is your own behaviour creating this situation? What happens next will define the outcome of the situation, so think carefully about what you’re going to say.
- Ask yourself one important question. Try to detach yourself from your emotions because this is when you respond in adverse ways. Take control and ask yourself: What do I really want for myself, the other person and the relationship?
- Make it safe. Making a crucial conversation safe is the key to success. Even conversations around risky topics can have positive outcomes, as long as you create safety. You can do this by reassuring the other person that you value their opinions as much as your own.
- Empathise. The key to influence is empathy. Before entering a crucial conversation, think about how the problems you want to discuss are going to affect the other person. Try to help them see that it is in both of your interests to address the problem and hopefully they will be motivated to find a solution too.
- Invite dialogue. Once the environment is safe, you can share your views and invite others to share their opinions too. Demonstrating that you’re open to hearing their thoughts will encourage others to be more accepting of yours.
Ultimately, if you find yourself heading for silence or violence, do your best to return to healthy dialogue.