Difficult Conversations

Sometimes with staff, peers or family members we need to raise an issue and we know it is going to cause a little angst with the other person for a range of reasons starting from they genuinely don’t believe it, to they do not want to believe it to, and ,sometimes, they have strategic reasons for their reluctance to consider what you are saying.
One of the skills in the Coaching programs we have deliverd to a wide range of organisations over the last 12 months which is applicable here is the skill of dropping the agenda.

Often when you confront someone over a behaviour that you found at odds with the teams values the recipient will go defensive and look to lay blame in anothers direction, present a ‘valid’ excuse or point to others and say,”They do it to..X is worse than me.What about them!”
At this point we become frustrated however we need to exercise some patience, empathy, really listen to their response and drop your own agenda for a while, for example,
‘I want to talk to you about your treatment of some of the other members of our team meeting today in particular the way you treated Mary.”
‘If she didn’t say such stupid things all the time I wouldn’t be short with her.”
At this point dropping the agenda means delving into their concerns and issues and demonstrating that you are really listening for understanding, for example,

“So you are saying that at times you find some of the remarks made by some in the meetings frustrating?”

“Yes!”

Tell me more”
The trick is to try to get to the real issue (ie “…juniors should wait two years before offering an opinion.”) but eventually bring it back to the starting point that this disrespect of others is counter productive and at odds with our values and team behaviours that THEY signed off on. Importantly you should ask for a change in their behaviour.
Keep in mind you may also find out something you were unaware of through listening and asking for clarification.
Developing a culture of honest and direct feedback takes time,skills and the recognition that the person who is giving the feedback is not looking forward to it either and is going out on a limb to help you, the team and the organisation.

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