Difficult Conversations


July 17th, 2007

Yesterday I revisited Difficult Conversations in preparation for a workshop I was running – and also because at a family gathering my sisters-in-law had been talking about difficulties they were having raising issues with their bosses.

There’s a lot to Difficult Conversations, even though the book itself is easy to read, the application is a lot trickier.

These are the bits that I find useful:

There’s not much to be gained from the ‘what happened’ conversation. Arguing about who was ‘right’ doesn’t lead anywhere much.

It’s helpful to explore each other’s different stories – and to start the conversation from the third story. This is the story an independent observer would see between the two ‘warring’ parties.

Be curious – and to be curious requires authentic listening, beyond active listening. This takes practice!

Impact is different from intent. Just because I was hurt by what someone said or did doesn’t mean that that was their intention.

And to move forward? Acknowledge and reframe. Reframe. Reframe.

While the book has been written to explore difficult conversations between individuals, I found it useful when facilitating a workshop where two organisations with previously good relations had found themselves in dispute with each other. A classic case of communication breakdown and loss of trust. While I didn’t use anything specific from the book, the understandings it provided about the dynamics of difficult conversations was invaluable and certainly influenced the way I facilitated the meeting.

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