Most of us will procrastinate having difficult conversations. Whether it’s to challenge poor performance, unacceptable behaviour, letting someone down, or just to say ‘No’ to something another person wants, we feel awkward, uncomfortable, or just plain confused on how to do it.
My answer is to find clarity and awareness by using two fundamental principles – truth and respect.
What is the truth of the circumstance or difficulty that I want to speak to the other person about? What has occurred, or done, or is requiring to be done? What is the truth of it, before I got involved, or before I felt or thought anything about it? We are most often affected by the emotions and feelings that we have in ourselves, in response to another’s actions or requests, and it is these that cause us to feel confused or uncomfortable. So, as much as possible try to take ourselves out of the equation in order to perceive the objective truth.
It is important to realise that we each have thoughts and feelings that cause us to have opinions, views and judgements of others, that are filters that cause us to colour what we perceive and which may not allow us to see the truth. It is helpful to (if you can) establish what your feelings/opinions/views are about something and what is the thing without your opinion of it? This allows you to speak to the person with those two distinct aspects in mind – to speak with them about the objective matter or facts of the situation – and what your opinion is about it.
This causes clarity and awareness in you first, enabling an easier conversation to be had. As an example, a person reporting to you sends an email to a client, copying you into it. You see it and become upset because they haven’t mentioned something important that the client ought to have been told, plus there a two or three typos which shouldn’t have been there. You could very easily have an angry conversation with the person if you didn’t follow the process above, and if you don’t undertake
To make the conversation very much easier, call upon the principle of Respect, to add extra benefits into the dialogue. Prior to the conversation, call to mind the very best of that person – whether it’s hard work, loyalty, good inter-personal skills, warmth, good customer service – and then put these positive aspects alongside the issue you want to speak to them about. These should act as a counter-balance to whatever your emotions or judgements are about what they did wrong, or you fear may happen, when you speak to them. Respect for another person allows us to cool down our emotions and helps us move from thinking only of ourselves, to considering the other person – the motivations and qualities that made them do whatever they did – which, if seen in a good light are never as negative or difficult as we may have first thought.
Calling up respect causes a sense of greater equality between two people (even if it’s only one person thinking respectfully). You can even engender self-respect if you wish to say ‘No’ to your boss or other person who may be trying to manipulate you to undertake something you don’t wish to do.
Using the principles of Truth and Respect in an active, practical manner will have strong positive impacts in your communication and relationships.
6 June 2016