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How to Handle Tough Conversations

How to Handle Tough Conversations


    I just finished a terrific book called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. Authors Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Kerry Patterson, and Al Switzler define a “crucial conversation” as one where opinions vary, something is at risk, and emotions are running high.

    The results of truly crucial conversations have a large impact on your quality of life. However, despite their importance, we often back away from crucial conversations because we feel awkward or fear that we’ll make the situation worse.  And when we do attempt to have them, we’re prone to making stupid or offensive comments that lead to disaster. Some work-related topics that involve crucial conversations include:

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    • Talking to a co-worker who is behaving badly
    • Giving the boss feedback about his management style
    • Critiquing a direct report’s work
    • Confronting a team member who is shirking her responsibilities
    • Giving an unfavorable performance review

    Twenty-five years of research involving 17 organizations and more than 100,000 people led the authors to conclude that the most critical skill of competent leaders is the ability to skillfully address emotionally and politically risky issues.

    My own crucial conversation

    I have a confession to make. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a few years now, but I consulted it today because I need to have a crucial conversation myself.  There is a woman I work with who never meets deadlines. I’ve talked to her multiple times about this issue, but the situation hasn’t improved. At this point, she’s acknowledged that I’m nagging her, which probably makes her even less likely to comply. I wish I could just let it go, but every missed deadline is costing me time and money.

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    According to Crucial Conversations, I’ve been addressing a symptom rather than the problem itself. The real problem here is that my co-worker doesn’t feel that it’s important to fulfill her commitments, and a symptom of this is missing deadlines.

    The book suggests that I look for patterns in her behavior (i.e. other instances where she doesn’t do what she said she was going to do) and have a calm and honest conversation about those. And if I do seem a little frustrated, my emotions won’t seem out of proportion because I’m not addressing a single incident but a global problem that signals a lack of trust and respect.

    My plan of attack

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    So what might my approach to the conversation look like?

    “Jessica (not her real name), I’ve noticed that lately you’ve been missing deadlines, leaving the office before we’ve finalized client deliverables, and forgetting to make your prospecting calls. When you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, it makes me feel like you lack commitment to this job and that I can’t trust you.   I would like to understand where you’re coming from so we can decide if this position is a good fit for you.”

    I recognize that this conversation has the potential to grow defensive and heated and I will do my best to remain calm, listening carefully to Jessica’s point of view. Throughout, I must remind myself of what I really want, which is for Jessica to change her behavior to demonstrate a true commitment to our work.  If she can do that following this interaction, then I need to let bygones be bygones.”

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    What crucial conversations have you had recently? What did you do right, and what did you do wrong? What do you feel you need to work on to be even more effective?

    (Photo credit: Middle-aged Man Holding Phone While Young Woman Yells via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 13, 2019

    10 Things Happy People Do Differently

    10 Things Happy People Do Differently

    Think being happy is something that happens as a result of luck, circumstance, having money, etc.? Think again.

    Happiness is a mindset. And if you’re looking to improve your ability to find happiness, then check out these 10 things happy people do differently.

    Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. -Dalai Lama

    1. Happy people find balance in their lives.

    Folks who are happy have this in common: they’re content with what they have, and don’t waste a whole lot of time worrying and stressing over things they don’t. Unhappy people do the opposite: they spend too much time thinking about what they don’t have. Happy people lead balanced lives. This means they make time for all the things that are important to them, whether it’s family, friends, career, health, religion, etc.

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    2. Happy people abide by the golden rule.

    You know that saying you heard when you were a kid, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Well, happy people truly embody this principle. They treat others with respect. They’re sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people. They’re compassionate. And they get treated this way (most of the time) in return.

    3. Happy people don’t sweat the small stuff.

    One of the biggest things happy people do differently compared to unhappy people is they let stuff go. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. Happy people realize this, are able to take things in stride, and move on. Unhappy people tend to dwell on minor inconveniences and issues, which can perpetuate feelings of sadness, guilt, resentment, greed, and anger.

    4. Happy people take responsibility for their actions.

    Happy people aren’t perfect, and they’re well aware of that. When they screw up, they admit it. They recognize their faults and work to improve on them. Unhappy people tend to blame others and always find an excuse why things aren’t going their way. Happy people, on the other hand, live by the mantra:

    “There are two types of people in the world: those that do and those that make excuses why they don’t.”

    5. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people.

    happiness surrounding

      One defining characteristic of happy people is they tend to hang out with other happy people. Misery loves company, and unhappy people gravitate toward others who share their negative sentiments. If you’re struggling with a bout of sadness, depression, worry, or anger, spend more time with your happiest friends or family members. Chances are, you’ll find that their positive attitude rubs off on you.

      6. Happy people are honest with themselves and others.

      People who are happy often exhibit the virtues of honesty and trustworthiness. They would rather give you candid feedback, even when the truth hurts, and they expect the same in return. Happy people respect people who give them an honest opinion.

      7. Happy people show signs of happiness.

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      smile

        This one may sound obvious but it’s a key differentiator between happy and unhappy people. Think about your happiest friends. Chances are, the mental image you form is of them smiling, laughing, and appearing genuinely happy. On the flip side, those who aren’t happy tend to look the part. Their posture may be slouched and you may perceive a lack of confidence.

        8. Happy people are passionate.

        Another thing happy people have in common is their ability to find their passions in life and pursue those passions to the fullest. Happy people have found what they’re looking for, and they spend their time doing what they love.

        9. Happy people see challenges as opportunities.

        Folks who are happy accept challenges and use them as opportunities to learn and grow. They turn negatives into positives and make the best out of seemingly bad situations. They don’t dwell on things that are out of their control; rather, they seek solutions and creative ways of overcoming obstacles.

        10. Happy people live in the present.

        While unhappy people tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future, happy people live in the moment. They are grateful for “the now” and focus their efforts on living life to the fullest in the present. Their philosophy is:

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        There’s a reason it’s called “the present.” Because life is a gift.

        So if you’d like to bring a little more happiness into your life, think about the 10 principles above and how you can use them to make yourself better.

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