Constructive conversations -
Director, Founder and Business Coach
28 October 2020
Lately, as a business coach, the topic of how to have constructive conversations has come up more frequently in my coaching sessions. The global pandemic has forced many people to work from home and what used to be mild irritations in the home have become personal conflicts. The virtual way of work and the inherent lack of tone in emails and texts have led to misinterpretations and tension between colleagues. And as we all know, pent up irritations and frustrations often lead to stress, angry outbursts, and regret.
So how do you address these 'mild irritations' with your partner or those misunderstandings with your colleague? As a start, immediately strike off email or text as your strategy!
Have a conversation.
Now, I know what you are thinking, "that won’t work because I don’t like confrontations” or “she is just going to get defensive”. Confrontations can be avoided if the conversation is a constructive one. Constructive conversations are those that help you move beyond the present 'story' and into a mode of collaborative problem solving.
Here are a few tips to having constructive conversations:
1. Choose the right time to have a conversation.
Timing is everything. Avoid having the conversation when either of you are angry, tired or busy. Any other physical or emotional issues at play will only make the conversation harder and less likely to achieve the desired results. Rather arrange an appropriate time so that you can prepare yourself and be calm and focused.
2. Write down what you want to say.
Writing your feelings down allows you to organise your thoughts, to filter what needs to be addressed and what may be unrelated. If you feel comfortable then practice saying it out loud. Often when we hear ourselves say the words, we find better ways to express ourselves. But when you have the conversation do not read it. Let it come from your heart.
3. Do not use sentences that start “you”.
So, don’t say “You make me feel disappointed” But rather say “I am feeling disappointed”. Another example, instead of saying "you never take the trash out, you're so inconsiderate" rather say "I feel frustrated and taken for granted when I have to do all the chores."
The first example is full of blame and shame. The second method of phrasing is an honest expression of your feelings. “I” statements are a kind and gentle way to bring up issues and feelings. When you express your feelings authentically and without blame, the listener will be less likely to be defensive.
4. Problem solve collaboratively.
After expressing your feelings move the conversation into constructive collaboration. Constructive collaboration engages the other person in problem solving a solution to a joint problem.
Example: “I feel embarrassed and frustrated when the kids are yelling in the next room whilst I am on a call. What do you think we can do to make this lock-down situation easier for us all”
Expressing the issue without blame and by volunteering yourself as part of the solution to a shared problem puts the listener into an empathetic problem-solving mode instead of a defensive one.
5. Truly listen
Even though you probably have thought of a dozen possible solutions, once you have expressed yourself just listen. Listen without judgment and without anticipating what you are going to say when it is your turn to speak. Just leave space for the other person to think and respond and then just listen. You may be surprised with how the conversation progresses.
Having difficult yet authentic conversations takes courage. And as with most skills, practice and persistence makes it easier. Bottling up feelings and avoiding difficult conversations is unhealthy for physical and emotional wellbeing, it erodes personal relationships and it inhibits organizational growth and creativity.
So….are there any conversations that you need to have today?
Director, Founder and Business Coach