Critical Conversations For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

You can use a critical conversation to stop difficult behaviors. Critical conversation skills can turn difficult behaviors from negatively impacting productivity, and help the people involved start to find better ways to work. The goals of a critical conversation, whether the discussion is delivering bad news or working through difficult behaviors, remain the same: use honesty and empathy to create a positive solution for everyone involved.

When you are trying to create a more positive future and dealing with some pretty negative behaviors, you’ll want to first pay special attention to your own emotions and perspectives.

After corralling your own emotions, it's time to put your critical conversation skills into play by examining what is happening, deciding on next steps, and beginning to get moving on a more productive path.

Critical conversation skill: Pay attention to your perspective

When trying to work with individuals who have more difficult personalities, it can be easy to jump to conclusions that their sole purpose is just to make your life more difficult.

Even if it is not your immediate reaction, take the time to stop assuming the worst, and examine what is really happening without judgment. If you don’t know what the other person is trying to achieve, ask and then find ways to create a resolution that will work for everyone.

Having any critical conversation is difficult enough, but when you add in even higher emotions and personal behaviors, it is easy to get overwhelmed and nervous.

Critical conversation skill: Put the critical conversation into play

Starting a critical conversation to change or modify difficult behaviors in the workplace is tough, but the ultimate goal is to make the workplace more productive for everyone. First, examine what is happening, and then decide what to do next.

Honesty is the best policy when examining what is happening that led up the conversation in the first place.

When examining what is happening, it is often useful to make statements that balance facts and feelings. For example, say: "I feel our conversations end with arguments (fact), and this is preventing you and me from working together more effectively (feeling)."

Identifying feelings, even your own feelings, can be a challenge. If emotions are getting the best of you or the situation, say what behavior you see.

With empathy you may say something like this: "I feel it is difficult for me to voice my opinion and be taken seriously in our discussions. When we talk, I often hear sarcasm. For example, when I recommended we hire an intern to help with our reports, you said, 'Is number crunching beneath Your Highness?'”

You may end this by acknowledging how the other individual feels, asking, “Do you understand my perspective?” You aren’t asking the person with a difficult behavior to agree with you, you are just asking if they understand why you feel the way you do.

Decide what to do next

After calmly examining what is happening, find out if the other person is willing to find a mutual solution.

If someone has been using sarcasm to avoid talking directly with co-workers for their entire career, one conversation may not resolve the issue, but it can be a start. Ask, “Are you willing to work with me to try and find a solution to create a more productive workplace?” It may take time for someone to unlearn old, difficult behaviors, but that is where the plan of action can help.

Focusing on building relationships and creating an open environment to work together is the ultimate goal when deciding what to do next. This is much different than coming into the conversation saying someone needs to change his behavior. Of course, there still needs to be agreement on what is going to happen after the conversation ends, and that is where a plan of action comes into the conversation.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Christina Tangora Schlachter, PhD, is a Certified Professional Coach. She has created and taught courses on communication skills, crucial conversations for new managers, communication for professionals, and dealing with difficult conversations. She is the coauthor of Leading Business Change For Dummies and is the Chief Leader of She Leads.

This article can be found in the category: