Steps for Successful Conversations

Recently, we have been learning how to deal with difficult conversations at work.  At first, I was a bit dismissive about the whole deal but after going though some of the training I realized that I could learn from this experience.

Here are some suggestions, not in any particular order, that I took away from those sessions that may help you when dealing with an uncomfortable conversation or meeting.

Being Prepared
“What is this about?  Why am I here?”
Try to think about what this conversation is about.  If possible, try and identify the mood of the other individual(s) to help better prepare you for what type of encounter this may be.  As hard as it may be, remember to remain positive throughout this process.  If you go into this with anger or negativity, it could make matters worse.  Smile 🙂

Extend an Invitation
“Would you like to sit down and discuss this issue?”
If you sense there may be friction between you and someone else, reach out to them.  Be genuine about the request.  If you feel that you are forced to do this, it’s going to show and will probably not help any situation.

Remain Open
“Yeah right, easier said than done!”
Sometimes, this is a little more difficult for me.  If I feel as if I have been mistreated, I tend to close up towards that person/situation….. Shield’s Up Captain!  This is where a positive approach comes into play.  As hard as it is, sometimes you just have to let your force fields down and listen to what the other person has to say.  There may have been another situation unrelated to your encounter that could have put the other person in a fowl mood and they passed that on to you.  Talk to them and be ready to listen.

Take Responsibility
“Hah, Wasn’t Me!”
Owning up is never easy.  This goes back to childhood for most of us…. “If I could just get away with it, I won’t get in trouble.”  The only issue with that statement is that 9 times out of 10, you are not going to get away with it.  As a professional, I have learned that I have to “Own” my mistakes rather than run from them.  Will there be consequences? Sure, but depending on how you handle the situation determines what the next action(s) will be.  You need to be able to handle both positive and negative feedback.  Use this as an opportunity to grow.

Share your Goal
“By the end of this meeting, I would like to know why this happened”
Use this as an opportunity to determine the purpose of this encounter.  I have spent many hours in meetings for what I thought was a valid reason, only to come out of it with two hours of my life wasted on non-productivity.  Set you a goal for the meeting and then share that.  Try to stay on topic (I know, I know… this is nearly impossible :p).  You should have a predetermined outcome of how you want the encounter to end.  Remember to compromise!

Share your Experience
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else”
Often, we are faced with similar situations and realize halfway through “Haven’t I been here before?”.  It’s best to take the time and share with others.  For example, you may be faced with an irate user and you were able to diffuse the situation, but this happens more often than not.  Don’t be a punk and let you co-worker walk into this issue without any prior knowledge.  Prepare them… share your experience.

Invite Feedback
“So what you’re saying is….”
Use these opportunities to build upon the situation.  It’s always easier to try and hurry up difficulty situations because quite frankly, you just want this to be over.  This goes be to “Being Open” about the whole ordeal.  Use this time to ask questions.  For example, you could use phrases like “Do you have any suggestions for what I could have said or done differently?”, or “I do not want situations like this to occur in the future.  Could you help me learn from this?”.  Remember, this is just another opportunity for growth and professional development.

Co-create a Solution
“Hey, let’s get together and bang this out!”
There are times when it may be best to work out a process together.  This applies to both projects and/or goals that may have been set for you by your management.  Take the time to sit down and discuss what needs to be accomplished.  Try to come up with a mutual agreement (sometimes hard to do :p) as you work though this.  Remember that others look at problems differently and it’s good to see ideas from a different perspective.

Document the Conversation
“What was that meeting about…. I wish I would have wrote that down!”
Unfortunately, this has happened to me a few times.  With the advancements in smart phones I can at the very least take notes using my phone but using these devices can be frowned on based on perception.  At a previous job I was always told “Perception is Reality”.  This statement is “sort of” true.  I could be taking notes on my phone but the person I’m meeting with might think I’m just playing games or surfing the internet instead of paying attention.  Bring a notepad with you next time and listen to what is going on.  Pay attention to key words and don’t be afraid to ask the person on the other end to repeat what they just said or to slow down for just a bit so that you can finish with your note.  This is VERY important especially if you are working on a new project or your end of year review depends on steps dictated in that meeting.

In closing, I just wanted to state that I am no expert at any of these steps.  I am simply passing along information that I have been presented and my personal advise on how to handle the different situations.

Enjoy!