October 26, 2017
Are there times when you postpone having a critical conversation with a peer, boss, customer, or direct report? Have you ever simply avoided such talks altogether?
It’s normal to feel anxious about having difficult conversations. However, you also understand they can be of vital importance to your success and the success of others. Avoiding these tough conversations when they’re necessary can mean ongoing problems for you and your organization.
Being an effective communicator is an important competency in business, and providing constructive feedback to others is a critical skill for success. The good news is that by learning the best methods for conducting critical conversations, you will increase your competence and confidence when initiating them yourself. You’ll also improve your ability to stay focused when others initiate them.
A critical conversation is any difficult conversation that can have a significant impact on you or someone else. Consider the key elements of critical conversations:
There is uncertainty. Not knowing how the other person will respond means you need to be strategic about the content of your communications and how you approach them.
Strong emotions can be triggered. When we are confronted with a perceived threat, our body’s natural fight-or-flight response often takes over. Similar feelings can are reproduced in critical conversations. This reaction shuts down our ability to engage in productive conversations. We tend to react emotionally instead of logically when our defenses are engaged, making it difficult to resolve the issues or problems.
The stakes are high. The issue or problem needs to be corrected and is of importance to the success of the person, project, department, or organization. Depending on the outcome of the conversation, careers can be impacted positively or negatively.
The following model for mastering the art of critical conversations will help you improve how you analyze the situation, prepare your approach, conduct the conversation, and achieve the results you intend.
When you put this model to use, you’ll be able to do the following:
When you begin having critical conversations with increased awareness of the constructive impact they can have, you are more likely to initiate them, participate when someone else initiates them, and achieve the results you desire.