” The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
I have heard this quote numerous times, I find it incredibly profound every time. It is never easy to have a difficult conversation. No one ever wakes up in the morning eager to jump into a discussion that could have an uncertain outcome. No one naturally wants to feel uncomfortable or to create possible conflict. If they do, frankly, then may have other personal issues that need to be dealt with. No~ no one really enjoys a “Crucial Conversation”.
In the Book “Crucial Conversations” the term in the title of the book would be defined as a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.
In order to navigate relationships in your family, workplace, community, or place of worship there will be times when the need to have a direct conversation will be clearly evident, left unaddressed gaps in relationships, teamwork, or productivity will be the result.
Have you ever gotten a phone call or email that you simply ignored because in order to move forward there would need to be a conversation? Have you ever walked “around” a teammates office so that you could avoid a tough conversation? Have you ever abandoned a friendship because having a hard conversation seemed too challenging?
I have to say YES to all of these situations. In trying to asses “WHY” I would have avoided challenging conversations I would have to discern that it was because I assumed I wouldn’t fare well; that I would cause more trouble. But often these types of conversations can bring fresh understanding, resolve conflict, and relational rebuilding.
In considering a crucial conversation we have 3 possibilities:
1. We can simply avoid them.
2. We can face them and handle them poorly.
3. We can face them and handle them well.
I feel that most of us would choose either #1 or #3. Assuming you have picked #3, I would l like to offer a few suggestions that I have learned in my years of being a Leadership Coach. (I am not an authority by any means; I continue to be a learner!)
Prepare yourself for the conversation. What is the end result you desire? What is the temperament of the individual you need to address? Are you angry? Have you already indited this person? Can you see your part in the challenge? What words will you use to clearly communicate? Are you prepared to listen?
Set a quality time/place for the conversation. Timing is key when addressing a challenging topic. I always tell young brides that it is NEVER wise to address challenging topic with their spouse after 8:30-9:00!! Two tired people addressing conflict will rarely provide a positive result! Does this conversation need to be in private? Do you need a 3rd party present for accountability?
Follow up within 24 hours. It is important be sure that your crucial conversation truly created the clarity needed between every individual involved. Do an understanding check as well as a relational check. Your conversation may not result in complete agreement but see if it has cleared away the intensity of emotion or misunderstanding.
Difficult conversations are necessary as we grow in every area of our lives and the results of having them successfully will empower us to be brave enough, kind enough, and wise enough to address them well.
Are the conversations you’ve been avoiding? Situations that need to be addressed? Relationships that need reconciling? Gaps on your team at work? Instead of focusing on how negative a crucial conversation could be, consider how much fruitfulness is to be gained. 🙂