When strong emotions, high stakes and opposing opinions collide, it can be explosive and, potentially damaging to results or a relationship. So, how do you navigate the stormy seas of a Crucial Conversation? Our team recently retook the VitalSmarts Crucial Conversations course. It was a great refresher on their highly-effective framework for anyone facing a tough conversation. I thought it would be a great ideas to share with you what we learned to help you and your teams have open, honest and crucial conversations.
Below are the 9 steps to a positive outcome of a Crucial Conversation:
- Get Unstuck. Anytime you are stuck, there is a crucial conversation you’re either not having or having well. Purposefully decide to have the conversation and identify what you need to address. Is there a specific incident or a pattern of behavior you need to discuss? Is there a problem affecting your relationship with someone?
- Start with Heart. Consider your intent. What results do you want for yourself, others, the relationship and the organization?
- Master My Stories. Separate your facts from stories. It sounds easy, but it’s helpful to write these down. A fact is something that cannot be interpreted (You were late to today’s meeting). A story can be debated (You are disrespectful).
- STATE My Path. Express your views in a way that makes it safe for others to hear them. Remember the acronym STATE: Share your facts. Tell your story. Ask for others’ paths. Talk tentatively. Encourage testing. For example: “I’d like to talk about our recent meetings. Do you have a minute? You arrived late today, checked email several times during our discussion and didn’t provide any input. From my perspective you aren’t onboard with the direction of our team and aren’t interested in working with us. Am I off base? What’s your perspective?” Perhaps other things happened to make the person late and distracted. Be open to hearing their side.
- Learn to Look. Watch for signs that a conversation is turning crucial and when people feel unsafe. If the person hearing you crosses their arms or gets defensive, you should do what it takes to make it safe.
- Make it Safe. A contrasting statement will help increase safety. In the example above, you could say, “I don’t want to make assumptions about your commitment to the project. I would like to find a way to make the project a success for all of us.”
- Make it Safe II. Look for common purpose. In the example above, you could say, “I know we both want the project to be a success. How can we make that happen?”
- Explore Others’ Paths. Actively listen when others blow up or clam up. Ask some questions to keep the conversation rolling (So the meeting time isn’t good for you?). Mirror to confirm their feelings (I can hear your frustration – I would be frustrated too!) Paraphrase to acknowledge the story and confirm understanding (So you take your kids to school every morning and traffic makes it tough to get to our early meeting). Prime when you are getting nowhere (Is there a better time for our meetings that works for everyone?)
- Move to Action. When ending the discussion, decide who does what by when and follow up. (I will look at everyone’s calendar and see if we can push our meeting by 30 minutes before next week.)
With some advance preparation and a tentative approach, you can conquer your fear of Crucial Conversations and talk to anyone about anything!
So, is there a conversation you need to have? Use the framework and clear the air!
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