Difficult Conversations

A Fresh Start Guide: Leading Difficult Conversations

Overcoming difficult conversations during a time of stress is a process that can be learned.

Being able to plan and prepare accordingly will help alleviate some of the stress your co-workers, employees, and family may be experiencing.

With some of the information you need to get started, we will walk you through a process to stay on-task, aware, and conflict-free. This will allow you to remain as productive as possible and focus on building positive experiences during an otherwise difficult time.

Adversity can fuel growth; however, this is only true when people work together, communicate, and are willing to grow.

Overview

Sometimes a person, a situation, or an issue really drives you crazy. Often, the only way forward is to face the issue head-on by having a conversation about it with those involved.

While that may sound simple, the situations are often emotionally charged, and people tend to avoid these conversations at all costs. Generally, issues that require these conversations don’t rise to the levels of conflict and aren’t considered performance issues, making it even harder for those involved to know how they should move forward.

Face your discomfort

Leading challenging conversations is about facing your discomfort and dedicating yourself to the conversation that needs to happen. You’ll learn to identify issues that require a conversation and to self-check whether you are the correct person to have the conversation. Once you’ve identified a conversation, you’ll follow a process that helps you create a plan, conduct the conversation, and follow up.

Be flexible in your goals

Let’s be clear: having the conversation doesn’t automatically lead to a resolution. Not having a resolution can be frustrating for many of us, so you must think about success as either fully resolving the issue or helping you identify a path for productively approaching the problem using the tools that you have.

In the course project, you’ll identify a potentially challenging conversation in your workplace, create a plan, practice having the conversation, and determine the appropriate next steps. We will guide you on how to do this using proven strategies and a refined process.

Preparing emotionally is an important part of this journey.

tli

In any challenging conversation, both parties come to the table with different perspectives and different lenses. So, when you come to a challenging conversation, it’s good to understand the lens through which you look. An easy model to use for this is the ladder of inference.

The ladder of inference basically states that we make a lot of observations throughout our lives. Those observations lead to meaning-making or how we understand the world and things that happen in it, which leads to beliefs and assumptions that we make, which ultimately lead to actions that we take.

That cycle continues throughout our lives. As that cycle goes, it’s the cycle of interpretation. So, it’s how we interpret things in the world. Each time something becomes more solidified, we move away from all the things that we could observe and use only selected data that we know justifies our reasoning.

It can be visible and invisible, like our gender and race. It can also be things like style. And so coming into a challenging conversation, the reason that that is important is that not only do we come in with our lens, but the person that we’re going to approach comes in with their lens, completely different life experiences, completely different selected data, completely different meanings, interpretations of the world. So, we need to be prepared to understand our lens so that we can approach another person with a completely different lens.

Defining your goals and interests

Planning and Consideration

This will help you determine if the conversation is worth having. It can be hard to know when you should or should not have a challenging conversation. Ultimately, you are the only person who can answer the question of “is it worth moving forward?”

There is no checklist or equation to determine this; in the end, it comes down to your feelings and predictions about the situation, its impact, and the likelihood of meeting your goal.

Moving Forward

Once you have decided to move forward, it’s important to note that you can’t just present your desired end goal (or initial position). Rather, you need to present specific situations, behaviours, and actions and the impact or issues that you are seeing based on this. It would be best if you used the conversation to guide the other person to the desired outcome.

Consider the situation

We often think about things and conversations, and we’ve thought them through fully in our minds, so we’ve already arrived at an end goal. That’s often what we’re ready to present to somebody who we’re going to talk to. But that can come across as rather abrupt.

Walking backwards

Before having a challenging conversation, we need to work our way backwards from our end goal of hopefully getting someone to do something differently to what our interests are, why that’s an issue, and what behaviours and actions are associated with that to get to how we might open that conversation better.

Understanding the impact

We must be able to describe exactly what behaviours, actions, or inactions can be associated with this so that we can provide the other person with specific examples. They may not understand why this is an issue.

We also need to understand the impact on the individual, the work group, and the organization so that we can discuss how that impact might change if behaviours change.

The 6-Steps to structuring a difficult conversation

6ssdc

We need to understand our perspectives, our own lenses, and how we make meaning out of things. We also need to understand the lens and perspective of the other person and why we may have avoided this conversation in the past.

It’s important to know that adverse reactions may come up during the conversation, and we need to be prepared to continue moving the conversation forward and hopefully make it productive.

Use this conversation to guide the other person to the desired outcome. We often think about things and conversations, and we’ve thought them through fully in our minds, so we’ve already arrived at an end goal.

That’s often what we’re ready to present to somebody who we’re going to talk to. But that can be rather abrupt. Before having the actual challenging conversation, we need to kind of work our way backwards from our end goal of hopefully getting someone to do something differently to what our interests are, why that’s an issue, to what the behaviors and actions are associated with that to get to how we might open that conversation better.

We must then be able to describe exactly what behaviours, actions, or inaction can be associated with this so that we can provide the other person with specific examples. They may not understand why this is an issue. We also need to understand what the impact is on the individual, the work group, and the organization so that we can discuss how that impact might change if there are changed behaviours.

Practice is essential in preparing yourself for the conversation and acknowledging possible reactions and triggers

Going into a challenging conversation requires a little bit of practice. With the preparation that you’ve done, you want to make sure that you think through many things that may happen during that conversation.

Therefore, it is important to have a specific issue statement in mind, ways to frame specific examples and illustrations of the things that you want to bring up to the other person and be prepared for any reactions that that person may have.

One really good way to do this is to work with a trusted confidant or mentor. Try out some different issue statements on them. Try out how you might frame the beginning of a conversation, sharing your interests and potential goals. Then, you can see how they would react if you brought that issue to them.

This may bring forward questions that they may have about understanding what you’re saying better so that you can refine your issue statement better. This will determine how you encourage the person across the table from you to engage in a discussion as opposed to reacting in negative ways.

What to do and not to do in certain situations is of utmost importance

dodont
A Fresh Start Guide: Leading Difficult Conversations 5

This guide focuses on assisting with and handling reactions. You may want to review it when preparing for or having challenging conversations. Below, you’ll find a list of common reactions, along with dos and don’ts for your response.

Determining next steps

A challenging conversation may not immediately resolve the issue that drove the need for it. To resolve the issue, you may need to escalate the conversation, follow up on the conversation, or provide some level of ongoing feedback.

Defining Success

Preparation, navigation and follow-through are the mainstays of success in a difficult conversation. Your first challenging conversation may not immediately garner a successful resolution, but it may take you down a path that eventually leads to one.

Moving on

Success is not instant, and a conversation is often only the first step. Follow-ups and ensuring that not every interaction is about this topic are essential. Not expecting immediate results, being prepared to have additional conversations, and being able to problem-solve and continue the process are all essential.

Know the limits

We all need to know when a conversation is inappropriate or needs to be stopped and referred to someone else, especially if you’re feeling attacked and have an emotional response. You can always reschedule for a time after enough time to process has occurred.

Is escalation required?

There are no clear rules for escalating a conversation. The type of assistance or escalation needed is impacted by who is involved in the conversation, the nature of the issue, and the skills of the person who wants to engage in the conversation.

Giving feedback

Providing feedback lets you share direct feedback that does not require a discussion or joint problem-solving. The goal is to achieve mutual respect by positively giving one-on-one feedback and responding to the feedback with an open mind.

The Fresh Start six-step process to better conversations

fssspbc
A Fresh Start Guide: Leading Difficult Conversations 6

Get In Touch

If you have questions, get in touch!

Call us at 403.863.9700, email us at don@freshstartmediation.ca or visit our site at www.freshstartmediation.ca

We look forward to helping you through this difficult time!

Download the guide here.

Share this

Take the first step:

Let’s talk about you.

We offer no obligation, free 1hr consultations to people like you. Let’s talk about your situation. Really. 

Stay Connected

Recent Posts

Can You Refuse Mediation in a Divorce

Can You Refuse Mediation in a Divorce?

In Calgary, neither party is forced to participate in or continue with family mediation if they don’t want to. However, separating couples are encouraged to settle their disputes out of court whenever possible. This approach can save time, reduce stress, and often lead to more amicable solutions. What is Mediation in Divorce? Mediation is a

Read More »
How to protect yourself financially in a divorce

How to protect yourself financially in a divorce?

Divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster, but your finances don’t have to suffer. Protecting yourself financially during this challenging time is crucial for securing your future. Whether you’re facing a separation or a full divorce in Calgary, these essential tips will help you navigate the financial complexities and come out stronger on the other side.

Read More »
What Am I Entitled to in a Divorce in Alberta

What Am I Entitled to in a Divorce in Alberta?

When you go through a divorce in Alberta, you are entitled to an equitable division of marital assets and liabilities. This means the assets accrued during the marriage are divided fairly between spouses, though not always equally. It also includes considerations for spousal support, depending on the length of the marriage, each spouse’s income, and

Read More »