4 Ways to Tackle Challenging Conversations

Today we are supporting a senior leader as he meets with the combined leadership team of two acquired companies. There are some extremely difficult conversations the group needs to tackle. One side is feeling dispirited after losing long-time members of their leadership team; the other is feeling superiorly successful. It’s a disaster waiting to happen without some facilitation finesse.
As we mentioned last week, we’ve been inspired by our Flow Fundamentals class based on Steven Kotler’s work. They advocate an approach that enables increased flow in these types of discussions – any time you have a conversation where there are strongly held, differing points of view. It’s the 30-30-30 Game (or, how never to be wrong again!), and we’ll tell you more about it along with a few other thoughts and tips for handling the tough conversations.

  1. Do nothing –  sometimes people believe that inaction means that they are waiting to make a decision. But doing nothing is a decision, and it has consequences just like every other choice described below. If you are not having the tough conversation, just realize that that is your choice.
  2. Crucial conversations is an approach made popular in a book by the same name. There is a seven step process that you follow when the stakes are high and you care about the outcome. The first principle is to start with heart and consider what you really want from the conversation. That’s an excellent start to any communication approach – figure out what you hope to accomplish. 
  3. The 30/30/30 Game – Many people bring their reality into a conversation and believe that it is completely correct. It’s a zero sum conversation when two people each believe their reality is right. Another approach is a 50/50 view, where each person shares their perspective and understands an alternative reality. The 30/30/30 approach is to consider that each person only brings 30% of the reality, and there is another 30% to discover. You start by accepting what is, and then use radical curiosity to understand the other person’s reality. The magic happens in the last 10%, as you work to co-create a shared reality that builds on each person’s perspective. Stand side by side and look out together versus standing opposed to each other.
  4. “Yes…and” – Improv it! Since we are based in the home of The Second City, we thought we’d mention this improvisational comedy principle where a conversational participant accepts what another participant has stated (“yes”), and then expands on that line of thinking (“and”).

When you need to have difficult conversations, what are your best approaches? The skill of gracefully navigating difficult conversations is a career game-changer. In fact, in the introduction of the Crucial Conversations book, the authors make a point of explaining how they stumbled upon this essential skill. They were researching the skill that set people apart in their careers. What was “the thing” that helped people advance further faster? It was the ability to have a crucial conversation! As we mentioned last week, we’ve been inspired by our Flow Fundamentals class based on Steven Kotler’s work. They advocate an approach that enables increased flow in these types of discussions – any time you have a conversation where there are strongly held, differing points of view. It’s the 30-30-30 Game (or, how never to be wrong again!), and we’ll tell you more about it along with a few other thoughts and tips for handling the tough conversations.

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