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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 October 18, 2018

    50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life

    50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life

    Life is filled with highs and lows —happiness and struggles that will test your resilience and integrity, push you to overcome challenges and leave you with lessons that will make you even stronger on your way up.

    It’s the way you feel and think about yourself, including your expectations and beliefs about what is possible to you, greatly determines everything that happens to you.

    It all starts with your thoughts. When you change your thoughts, you transform the quality of your life. (Right, Nancy’s story is a typical example!)

    Below is a list of the best motivational quotes to inspire you to start your day with a blast:

    Quotes for self-assurance

    1. Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality, upgrade your conviction to match your destiny.

      2. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

        3. You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.

          4. The man who has confidence in himself gains the confidence of others

            5. You attract what you are, not what you want. If you want great, then be great.

              6. It’s not who you are that holds you behind, it’s who you think your are not.

                Quotes about positivity

                7. Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.

                  8. You should never regret anything in life. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it is experience.

                    9. Falling down is an accident, staying down is a choice.

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                      10. If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.

                        11. Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.

                          12. Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for great.

                            13. Remember that life’s greatest lessons are usually learned from worst times and from the worst mistakes.

                              Quotes for work and success

                              14. Don’t talk, just act. Don’t say, just show. Don’t promise, just prove.

                                15. Never stop doing great just because someone doesn’t give you credit.

                                  16. Discipline is doing what needs to be done, even if you don’t want to.

                                    17. Work while they sleep. Learn while they party. Save while they spend. Live like they dream.

                                      18. The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire, not things we fear.

                                        19. Never apologize for having high standards, people who really want to be in your life will rise to meet them.

                                          20. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

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                                            21. Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it, time will pass anyway.

                                              22. Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.

                                                23. A hill is just another opportunity to leave your competition behind.

                                                  24. Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.

                                                    25. Hustle until you no longer need to introduce yourself.

                                                      26. You didn’t come this far only to come this far.

                                                        27. Be selective in your battles for sometimes peace is better than being right.

                                                          28 If we keep doing what we are doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.

                                                            29. You will never know your limits until you push yourself to them.

                                                              30. Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.

                                                                31. The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.

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                                                                  32. If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.

                                                                    33. If you can’t handle stress, you won’t manage success.

                                                                      34. Don’t be pushed by your problems, be led by your dreams.

                                                                        35. Don’t mistake silence for weakness. Smart people don’t plan big moves out loud.

                                                                          36. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

                                                                            37. Obsessed is the word the lazy use to describe dedicated.

                                                                              38. You become who you spend your time with.

                                                                                39. Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.

                                                                                  40. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

                                                                                    41. If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.

                                                                                      42. Between stimulus and response is our greatest power –the freedom to choose.

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                                                                                        43. What comes easy won’t last, what lasts won’t come easy.

                                                                                          44. Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.

                                                                                            45. Work until your idols become your rivals.

                                                                                              Quotes about money

                                                                                              46. Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.

                                                                                                47. I create new enemies every day, it’s called business.

                                                                                                  48. When you have a Million Dollar vision, don’t surround yourself with 1 cent minds.

                                                                                                    49. You can’t get rich thinking poor.

                                                                                                      50. Doing what is comfortable is rarely profitable.

                                                                                                        51. If you can count your money, work harder.

                                                                                                          If you find yourself feeling lost and frustrated, it’s never too late to change things up. Check out this guide:

                                                                                                          How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

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