Navigating Challenging Conversations, Part 2

Relationships, professional and personal, can be made or broken by the manner in which challenging conversations are handled. If handled well, the relationship can be forever strengthened. If handled poorly, the relationship may never recover. So, a complete tool box of tactics is a very valuable thing to have.

In my last post, I shared three foundational concepts to rely on before the conversation begins. Here are three more concepts, all of them intended to help you once the conversation has started:

1. Once you invite someone into what you know will be a challenging conversation, remember to keep it as a conversation. Once you make the invitation, if you then change the conversation into a monologue lecture, then that’s false advertising, and it will become quickly obvious that dialogue was never the goal. And the conversation will fail. Don’t false advertise. Conversation is good. Lecture not so good.

2. Even if you vehemently disagree with the other person’s perspective, try to find ways to make sure they feel heard and validated. If you want your points to be heard and validated, try to find a way to do the same in the other direction. Listening begets listening. Validation begets validation. Now, the more the disagreement, and the further apart the opinions are, the harder this becomes. Obviously. But nevertheless, it is a crucial element of keeping a conversation functional. Common ground is your friend.

3. Even if you have not gotten all the way to your desired destination, it is OK to take a break, acknowledge even minor examples of progress, and live to fight another day… especially if the topic is big and emotional, and especially if you were far apart in your beliefs at the outset. The further apart you are at the outset, the less likely you will get to any semblance of consensus in a single conversation.

Navigating our way through challenging conversations has always been a highly valuable skill. But perhaps never more so than in a highly polarized, highly politicized, highly emotional culture. Which, in case you haven’t noticed, is exactly where we are right now in the United States.

Have a great day.

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Corporation’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.