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PHS 609- Approaches to Managing Difficult Conversations

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Claire Bahati

on 6 February 2013

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Transcript of PHS 609- Approaches to Managing Difficult Conversations

During Difficult conversations Preparing for a Difficult Presentation Managing a Difficult Conversation 3 Simple Concepts to Remember Handling Difficult Reactions Things to Remember Before Difficult Conversations Approaches to Managing Types of difficult conversations Difficult conversations gone wrong Examples of difficult
conversations at work Questions to consider in preparation of a difficult conversation What is the most important aspect of the
situation that you need to address?

Figure out how to appropriately present your views in a non-threatening manner. What will success look like from your perspective? What do you know or need to know about the individual’s perspectives or circumstance? What do you understand about the individual that can help you approach the discussion in a constructive way for both parties? What techniques would you employ if the discussion becomes emotional or tense? Who are the other stakeholders in the situation? What other preparation is appropriate for the situation? Look at the relevant facts of the situation and think about what would be required to achieve success that is beneficial to both parties. Being aware of how you react to difficult situation will teach you about your vulnerabilities and help you to be in control of these situations.

Think of how you will relay that their perspective is also important to you and decide how new insight might affect your decision or course of action. Think of what needs to be done before the meeting such as picking a time and location that works for both of you. Think and practice the phrasings that you will use that allows the person to preserve their self-image. Thinks of ways that will help you remain calm redirect the conversation. Is it time to involve a third impartial party? Could the participants offer you additional guidance or support in preparing for the discussion. Think of who else might need to be involved in the conversation. e.g. human resources. Decide if you need to practice your conversation. If so, think of someone who will be unbiased and provide constructive feedback. A difficult conversation differs
from other conversations due to the emotional burden it carries. e.g. anxiety, anger, embarrassment, fear and confusion Difficult conversations can occur when an individual is emotionally connected to or sensitive towards an issue/person. Clarity Neutrality Temperance Avoid euphemisms
Be clear
Be honest
Delivery is crucial Facial expressions, body language, intonation all have an effect
Neutral expression can help defuse an already tense situation Choose the right way to say what you need to say
Avoid provoking
Advance the conversation
Keep strain out of conversation 3 Simple Concepts to Remember Be aware of the other person's story Be aware of your contribution Be aware of your stories Be aware of your ego Be aware of being negative Be aware of the other person's story Learn details of person's story while suspending judgment

There is opportunity to change the dynamic from a difficult conversation to an educational one

Maximize chance of common ground to mutually desirable solutions No conflict situation is ever 100% attributable to one individual, both parties play a role

Without this understanding, it is difficult to make the necessary changes to move the conversation forward

Improved listening skills is just as important as speaking skills Be aware of your contribution Be aware of your stories Confusing our feelings or impressions as facts can be a major barrier to effective communication inside a difficult conversations

Making conclusive statements without facts can feel confrontational

Sharing both our conclusions along with the facts provides a more concrete and precise dialogue Be aware of your ego Egos can enter into difficult conversations, as we may feel a strong competitive urge to 'win' the argument

Winning the argument may give up too much
e.g. progress, friendship, goodwill, etc Be aware of being negative Just one hurtful comment can negate any useful progress

Hence, once a conversation turns negative, it can take a long time to turn around Explore the issues Acknowledge and Invite Evaluate potential solutions Look for agreement Agree on the way forward Acknowledge and invite the other person to express their point of view

How they feel about the situation Tackle applicable questions to fully understand their issues and concerns

Communicate your views and feeling too using “I” statements instead of "you"

Clarify feelings and fact from both parties Summarize the point you agree on to encourage greater collaboration Talk about options of how the situation can be resolved satisfactory from the parties point of view Agree how you will move forward and who will do what

Should another review be planned for the future? Difficult conversations What is a difficult conversation? How will you focus on the situation, not the person? Disengage from the conversation Keep content clear and concise, your tone neutral and keep your phrasing temperate


Do not oversimplify the problem Stop relying on intentions. It makes assumption that the other person automatically understands the content of what you mean.



Remember “people don't register intention despite words; we register intention through words” (Weeks)

Don’t rehearse before hand, it will impede your ability to listen effectively and respond appropriately. Instead be prepared



Don’t lose sight of the goal. Maintain focus on the outcomes you want to achieve and remember “winning” is not the goal Awareness of our own biases and tendencies prevent us from undermining our ability to find solutions. This requires a commitment to honest self-analysis


If one technique is not working, try another. There is no cookie-cutter approach that will fit all situations Have respect for yourself, the person you are speaking with and the problem we are trying to solve


Avoid the pitfall of listener interpreting instead of the speaker communicating Our intentions and mindset are crucial in determining how a difficult conversation will turn out.


Ensure conversations begin with a clear and effective opening Reinforce a positive working relationship

Disengage from the discussion and shif back into the normal workday

Change the focus of the conversation towards positive aspects of the relationship you have with this person
Disengage from the conversation Objective of having a difficult conversation To maintain professionalism and productivity in an organization. “What happened?” conservation Feelings conversation Identity conversation A conversation with one’s self about what a situation tells them. It is difficult as it may affect one’s confidence and identity. A conversation around each party’s emotions and their validity. It can be difficult as feelings may not be understood. A disagreement over “what happened” and who is at fault. It can be difficult as each pass blame and misinterpret intentions. When difficult conversations are not approached appropriately, they can have severe negative consequences Can become unpleasant for both parties Can become intensely emotionally charged Can have a sense of defying logic and common sense Can become aggressive with use of physical, psychological and verbal attacks Can undermine, expose or belittle an individual Disagreements between colleagues or managers Communicating change or discussing behaviour issues Responding to unprofessional behaviour Manager delivering negative feedback Worried about how the other person will react Fear of offending the other person Unintended consequences of a conversation gone wrong Need to prepare what to say Need to find the right place and time Reasons for delaying a difficult conversation Do not delay a difficult conversation, as there is risk for an issue to get worse (e.g. decreased productivity, loss of morale).

Preparation is key to ensuring that a difficult conversation has a clear goal and that conflict is well managed.

What is a difficult conversation?
Objectives and desired outcomes
Types of difficult conversations
Examples of difficult conversations at work
Difficult conversations gone wrong
Reasons for delaying a difficult conversation
Preparing for a difficult conversation
Managing difficult conversations
Disengage from the conversation
Handling difficult reactions
Things to remember
Outline
Gallagher S. (2009) A “CANDID” Approach to Difficult Conversations. American Management Association

Learning Consultancy Partnership (LCP) (2012). Handling Difficult Conversation at Work: Survey and Guide.

Weeks, H. (2001). Taking the Stress Out of Stressful Conversations. Harvard Business Review

Stone, D., Patton, B. & Heen, S. (1999). Difficult Conversations: How to discuss what matters most. New York: Penguin. References
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