Tricks to help you with challenging conversations

Tricks to help you with challenging conversations

December 17, 2015

Written by: Jennifer Jimbere | Productivity & Profitability Coach for Business Leaders

Dialogue: The Free flow of meaning between two or more people.
At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information. Yet you only control how openly and honestly your opinions are expressed.
You might have read in Crucial Conversations; Tools for talking when stakes are high that “each of us enters the conversations with our own opinions, feelings, theories and experiences about the topic at hand. This unique combination of thoughts and feelings makes up our personal pool of meaning.” They say “this not only informs us but also propels our every action.”
How are you checking your pool of meaning to challenging conversations? Do you, your team or need help with having courage in critical conversations? Click the link to check out this half day self-reflected learning, experiential based workshop and see about attending with peers.

Let’s look at a scenario and then talk tips!
Imagine the colleague with whom you find it hard to relate, cannot always find their meaning when they talk and somehow they make you uncomfortable. Sometimes, you walk away from meetings replaying the conversation to understand how it went off track. It seems almost every time you talk with them they oppose your opinion and prove to be a challenging relationship for you. Let’s also imagine that you think you’ve tried everything to better relate and understand their viewpoint.
Can you picture them? Visualize them and imagine this: You’re at a team meeting and this person chooses to point out 3 errors in your presentation in front of your peers. They offer their assistance to fix it and can give you 30 minutes by the end of the day to do so.
What is your natural reaction to this scenario?  Picture what you would say and do.

Here are some tricks that I hope will support you in your response to this perceived challenging conversation:
1.  Picture that person as a child.  Literally take time to think what they looked like as a child.  They were curious, cute and kind.  Do they have brown hair, picture that in a style that you saw as a child, picture them with bright eyes and a never ending smile. Does that person have good intentions?

2.  Picture your best ally, you know the one, they are one of your best advocates. This is your go to person who you call on when you need help.  Can you picture this person?  Imagine this scenario: You’re at a team meeting and this person chooses to point out 3 errors in your presentation in front of your peers. They offer their assistance to fix it and can give you 30 minutes by the end of the day to do so.

In this scenario, how do you feel?
You might be thankful and even eager for the conversation so that you can get this task off your desk and have it be the best it can be.

3.  Think about your typical reaction to this scenario provided above, is it:
– Avoid it?
– Hit the conversation head on?
– Thank them without meaning it?
Whatever your natural reaction to this scenario might be, I invite you to take a deep breath and take a different approach to see if you flexing your style helps to move the conversation from challenging to a positive dialogue between you. If you do, the result is that you both attempt to understand each other, trust builds, and the organization has a chance at a better outcome with increased productivity.

4.  Turn your thought of the situation on its head.  If you react negatively, attempt to switch your thinking into positive. Meaning, “That was embarrassing that he pointed out my errors,” I invite you to think, “I appreciate that he has high standards for our team and value his attention to details, as that’s not one of my strengths.”   Do you think your conversation would change if you came at it this way? Try subbing in positive assumptions for negative ones and watch how your conversations change!

Whatever your assumptions are, when you can try to engage your System 2 thinking.  A great book on the topic by Daniel Khaneman ~ Thinking Fast and Slow. The book’s central thesis is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: “System 1” is fast, instinctive and emotional; “System 2” is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.

Try one of the 4 tricks out and let me know how it worked for you. Bonus Tip: the one that makes you most uncomfortable to try, is the one that will help you grow the most.
Jennifer Jimbere is President of Jimbere Coaching and Consulting. Inspiring individuals, teams and organizations to break through and maximize performance. Follow on Twitter at @Jennifer Jimbere.

Maintain momentum and make it a great day!


Image credit and artist: LA artist and old friend Jennifer Verge Inspired by: My email sign off:)


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