“Difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values.” – Douglas Stone
Half way into 2022, it seems like conversations and topics of discussion are getting more difficult. As I have wrestled with the discord, I looked into ways to feel more empowered. Hence this blog. My attempt to help us find common ground in the midst of polarizing times.
Tips for communicating during tough conversations:
How to prepare for a difficult conversation that you know is coming:
Write a Letter:
Invariably we fear having difficult discussions because we are afraid we will get off track which leaves us feeling vulnerable and afraid of the results. Find a quiet spot, sit down and write a letter to the person you need to have the difficult conversation with. You won’t actually be sending the letter, this is an exercise to articulate what you are thinking and feeling. It is an unedited brain dump of your experience and perspective. Get it all out, completely! Let it rest for a few hours or days. Edit what needs to be edited. Then read it aloud as if you are reading it to the person it is addressed to.
Step into the Other Person’s Shoes:
Now that you have written the letter, put yourself in the shoes of the other person, the one this letter is directed toward. How will this person react to your letter? How different will their interpretation and perspective be from yours? Take time to write a response as if you were the person who received the letter. Be as thoughtful, thorough and honest as possible. This part is critical, it allows you to see your own experience that you might not have considered before. It can help you to gain some distance from your own experience and consider how the other person might interpret the situation. The desire is for you to gain a larger perspective in preparation for the actual difficult conversation.
Strategies to create more open communication when you finally have the conversation:
There is NOTHING more frustrating than being in a conversation with someone and they are always fiddling or responding to their phone during your meeting. It is disrespectful, which is a rough way to start a conversation that could be difficult. Eighty-nine percent of Americans say that during their last social interaction, they took out a phone, and 82 percent said that it negatively impacted the conversation they were in. The data also showed it decreased an empathic connection that people feel toward one other. Put your laptop and cell phone away and be sure to give the other person your full attention.
Listening is the primary skill that creates the most immediate and powerful impact on our relationships in our personal and business lives. A simple way to remind us to “listen” more is to rearrange the letters. As you mix up the letters, you get silent and enlist. That is the full range of what listening encompasses.
As Steve Shapiro reminds us, “It is not just the logic of the message but the emotional content. Not just the lyrics but also the music. Not just the content but also the intent”.
Effective communication which is essential during a difficult conversation involves the exchange of perspective, which can be opposing positions. Unless you open your mind to another’s viewpoint, common ground can be tough to reach. Finding that common ground requires us to listen in order to really consider someone’s position and experience. If you find yourself not listening, interrupting or trying to frame a rebuttal or perfect reply, the other person will likely sense you have stopped listening. A great way to stay present in the conversation is to say, “Hhhhmmm, I haven’t thought about it that way before. Can you give me some time to consider that and think it over?”
Rarely will someone complain that you have been listening and considering their position. They are usually more willing to give you time to thoughtfully consider what has been said so you can respond to it instead of just reacting in the moment.
Listening openly and attentively to others helps to build trust, which is a beautiful place to start to cultivate connection and find common ground.
If you are curious about what I covered in this letter, here is a suggestion. Click this scheduling link to create time to talk about how to find your voice and step into your power. We need more women committed to leading with grace and accessing their power unapologetically with grace.
Happy 4th of July! I hope you have time with friends and family spent enjoying one another and festivities that refresh you.
I am grateful for you!