We talk about Hard Conversations, what they are, why we need to have them, how to prepare for them and how to facilitate them in your personal and professional life.
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Do you no longer want conversations about money with your partner to escalate to an argument or do you really need to talk to your boss about that promotion you've been hoping for? We will tell you how on this episode of Happily Unmarried. Hi my name is Danielle.
And my name is Daniel.
And you're listening to the Happily Unmarried podcast. A podcast about adulting and living your best life.
In this episode will talk about why we need to have difficult conversations, how to prepare for them, and how to facilitate them in your personal and professional life. So what is a hard conversation.
I would say that a hard conversation is typically one that may create conflict and is emotionally loaded. These would0:00:40–0:00:48
typically be about things that we find important. So the topics of these conversations are usually something that are meaningful to us in one way or another.
I think some examples of typical hard conversations and make sense to split them out between.0:00:56–0:01:08
Hard conversions that you might have in your personal life and hard conversations that you might have in your professional life. So some typical personal life conversations could be about money or how to raise your children.0:01:08–0:01:10
Chores for example, yes.
Household chores not with your children.
But if you actually interested in learning about the chores and children there's an episode of Happily Unmarried that you should check out. And the most common kind of point of contention within relationships other than money is intimacy.0:01:28–0:01:37
Sex and other forms of intimacy. In your professional life hard conversations could be about performance, especially like if you are a manager and have to deliver.
Performance reviews, feedback, either up or down or or,0:01:43–0:01:54
horizontally right? If you if you need to talk to somebody and give him that that hard feedback. And asking for promotions or raises or discussions around that right those are typical topics that0:01:54–0:01:58
can lead to hard conversations or spark hard conversations.
And because these conversations are typically emotionally loaded and may lead to conflict,0:02:07–0:02:21
we tend to want to avoid having them, right? It's not something that is necessarily enjoyable. It doesn't always make us feel good. So it seems that sometimes the most important things that need to be discussed, we kind of avoid solely because of how they make us feel.
So why do we have to have them then if they make us feel so terrible?
If you don't have these conversations then you're essentially going to create the environment that you're afraid to create by having the conversation, right? So you're allowing for more conflict, you're letting those emotions fester.
So I think what you're saying fundamentally, by having these conversations you can resolve whatever conflict there is.
And it also gives you an opportunity to grow and develop.
Funny that you say that I recently learned that in Chinese the characters for,0:02:57–0:03:03
crisis has two characters and if you split them apart and read them individually,0:03:03–0:03:14
the first character means danger and a second character means opportunity. So it's kind of like, oh every crisis there's an opportunity. But yeah,0:03:14–0:03:22
having hard conversations can fundamentally and ultimately improve our lives and careers and relationships.
If you don't talk it out.
You acted out.0:03:29–0:03:36
So since these conversations are so important you probably want to prepare before going into one. So what are some ways that you could prepare for having a hot conversation?
Yeah, so I think the first thing before going into having a hard conversation whether it's at work or at home is0:03:45–0:03:50
understanding the goal of that conversation, so what is the outcome? what is the goal? That you0:03:50–0:04:04
expect or want and use that to kind of guide you throughout this preparation process right. It's a good way to keep yourself on track. If you're the kind of person that tends to get flustered or you know you start to get anxious and you0:04:04–0:04:13
forget all the things that you want to say. I found personally that it helps to kind of create some bullet points. Some high-level things that you want to make sure you don't forget0:04:13–0:04:15
almost kind of lead into,0:04:15–0:04:25
tacks. So if there's something that you have to say that's very sensitive and you want to be sure that you say it in the exact right way and you don't want to forget. Then maybe it's worth jotting that down so that you can0:04:25–0:04:29
practice it or have that note with you when you have the conversation.
I think another great thing to do is schedule some time and potentially even give the other person heads up.
I mean this makes and I think what's interesting about this is this makes a ton of sense,0:04:40–0:04:47
in the work environment right. I mean typically at least for me usually you schedule time with someone when you need to talk to them0:04:47–0:04:59
depending on how urgent an issue is. So this idea that you're scheduling time, you're putting it on the calendar ahead of time, and you may even give that person a heads up here and putting time in your calendar because I want to talk about this0:04:59–0:05:05
I think it's something that we tend to do naturally at work but maybe feels a little bit unnatural at home0:05:05–0:05:19
you know with your partner. But I think by utilizing that by understanding that you're going to set aside time to talk about the specific thing and if you think it would be fair or makes sense to let your partner know here's this thing that I want to talk about it then allows them to prepare as well.
Right, and I think even if you for whatever reason don't set aside specifically time,0:05:25–0:05:38
I think it's just more than fair when you go into a conversation like this to let the other person know, hey so you could for example, ask I would like to talk about XYZ with you, is now a good time?0:05:38–0:05:44
And give them the opportunity to say can we talk about it tomorrow or later or some other time.
So you're not help putting them on the spot, which can create like this unnecessary feeling of anxiety in people when you want to talk about something like that.
I think ultimately, however well you prepare you need to realize and acknowledged having hard conversations is hard that's why they're called that and0:06:03–0:06:11
ust thinking about it right. How would you yourself react if somebody walk up to the to you and criticize you or attacked you or.
I mean I can tell you,0:06:14–0:06:27
I am a very emotionally loaded person. So I am the person that's going to get angry, get defensive, get anxious, start crying, shut down.0:06:27–0:06:32
I could potentially do all of those things in one conversation.
But you want to have a dialogue, right? This is really what is important and this is conflict right? How do you approach this in the first place? Like a lot of people struggle with,0:06:43–0:06:57
with this notion of are you going to be direct and upfront with a person or are you going to be kind and sugarcoat everything? How do you approach it? You do want to address the actual elephant in the room,0:06:58–0:07:11
right so you do want to be direct. We also don't want to offend the other person or hurt the other person. How do you approach that? I think one thing that people need to realize or understand is you can do both, right? You can be direct and to the point, but0:07:11–0:07:20
remain respectful and not offend or attack the other person. You do not necessarily have to sugarcoat everything to remain respectful and nice.
But I mean, and to acknowledge all of these feelings that we talk about that people have0:07:24–0:07:35
when having a hard conversation is because these conversations are really intimidating and the outcome of these conversations could be a huge impact to your career or your personal relationships.
both in the positive sense, if you have successful have conversation. But, they could also hurt your relationships or your career or your professional life if you drive the car against the wall right?0:07:47–0:07:59
That is why they're so intimidating and that's why a lot of people are scared to have them. Not necessarily only because just having the conversation is intimidating but also the outcome could be.
May not be in your favor.
But in the end the goal I think of ever any hard conversation is to build trust with the other person and to build common understanding. You want to find a common ground,0:08:12–0:08:14
something that both people can agree on.0:08:14–0:08:28
Don't forget in the end you're trying to resolve an important issue something that is really important to you and you need to work towards that. Against all emotions and urges that you might spontaneously develop during a hard conversation.
So talking about emotions, I think it's important to note that going into these hard conversations are going to stir up your emotions. That's how our brain works we have feelings and.
Well you do, I don't...
I have feelings, you're a robot.
It's psychology right? It's how our biochemistry works.0:08:49–0:09:02
You feel attacked or intimidated, your amygdala kicks in and you go into fight or flight mode. We need to face the fact that we're trying to solve an issue, we're trying to resolve some conflict that we have and running away from it.0:09:02–0:09:12
or punching the other person in the face is not going to resolve that conflict. So what we need to do is in that scenario, we need to manage our emotions and we need to.0:09:13–0:09:15
Because like if you want to achieve a goal that that will be the only way to do that. Yelling at the other person or literally like stomping out on them is not going to do that and we have to be aware of that,0:09:25–0:09:32
and to achieve this, what we want to do it like, we want to recognize our emotions we want to be able to tell oh wow0:09:32–0:09:43
I can feel like my neck muscles are tightening, my fingers are starting to tingle, my heart is starting to beat, these kind of feelings express different for every person but we want to be able to0:09:43–0:09:52
recognize, a) going into these hard conversations we'll stir up these emotions and when they come when they trigger, we want to be able to realize this and,0:09:52–0:09:57
put our foot to the brake and slow down and manage our emotions.
And I think it's interesting you know what you said that you know to recognize what is happening to your body physically when you start to get upset and it seems like when you say it,0:10:07–0:10:17
sounds like oh yeah that makes perfect sense but for some people unless you're like consciously thinking about your body while you're upset a lot of people have no idea,0:10:17–0:10:27
what that feels like or what what some of these possible you know signs can be so one thing that I recommend for everybody is you know when you get upset take stock,0:10:27–0:10:41
and kind of feel if you are short of breath or if you're starting to sweat or other physical symptoms that can be a red flag to yourself before you are out of control that this is coming.
So what are some ways that can help manage your emotions in a situation like that let's say you are in a hard conversation, you recognize your physical triggers, what can you do to manage the situation?
Yeah I mean I think that when you separate professional conversations from personal conversations. You know, when you're having your partner you can stop and take a couple deep breaths and and slow your heart rate down or you can you can tell your partner you know what,0:11:06–0:11:12
I need a minute, let me just gather myself here. That may or may not be appropriate to do0:11:12–0:11:25
if you're in a meeting with your boss. One thing that I've found that helps me specifically in a professional conversation that's making me really uncomfortable, is always having something to drink because in that time that I'm taking to0:11:25–0:11:29
take a sip I'm allowing myself to take that breath and swallowing and,0:11:29–0:11:39
giving myself a minute to think about what I'm going to say back and it doesn't feel it if you look more natural, versus having to be super explicit about what I'm doing.
Ideally you want have a bottle in the open it up.0:11:43–0:11:54
take a sip, you close it again, you put it away. So you have some time to kind of like settle down and take a deep breath and think a little bit about what just happened, what was said, how you want to react to that.
And if you're one of those people that when you get very stressed or anxious you your immediate responses to cry. I mean that happens to me, not necessarily cuz I'm like oh my God I have to cry because I'm so sad like it's just a physical0:12:06–0:12:15
response that happen, using the water to take a breath and swallow like that helps stop the the tears.
Did you know that you can listen to this podcast on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, and even on a website? Search for Happily Unmarried podcast and don't forget to subscribe.0:12:26–0:12:32
You just talked about saying, hey I need a minute, think about this. I do think this is appropriate in a professional.
Yeah I mean the way in which you say it right oh that's a good point I need to think about it for a second that's probably how I would say it at work.
And there's also this concept of meta conversations which we'll get into a little bit later. But, just letting the other person know if you just shut down your quiet because you need do you need a minute,0:12:49–0:12:56
then the other person is like what's going on here is that person you just ignoring me now or what's going on when you need some time,0:12:56–0:13:00
be verbal about it, let the other person know, I need some time,0:13:00–0:13:07
and that is absolutely appropriate as long as you say it respectfully and not kind of stomp out of the room like "i need some time!".
I'll be back later.
Even when you have emotional reactions. In the end if you need to start crying or if you start sweating like a hog, it's okay to be expensive and let the other person know. Hey I'm sorry this is how I react when I'm stressed just that you know.
Well I would like to agree with you and say that that's perfectly acceptable. Being a woman,0:13:26–0:13:39
and this idea that women are too emotional and they can't handle feedback and all they do is cry. Like as a woman when you're in situations like that like literally crying is the last thing you want your body to do. It almost feels like it's,0:13:39–0:13:43
rebelling against you so0:13:43–0:13:54
I would hope that you are in a situation where you have the support that you can say hey sorry like I'm just tearing up because I'm having an emotional response here but I'm listening and I'm willing to take this feedback but0:13:54–0:13:57
not everybody necessarily has that kind of support at work.
That's fair I understand that but then let's flip it around. Yes maybe you you don't want to have that emotional reaction but what if you can't stop it?0:14:05–0:14:10
Right? And in that situation I think it is appropriate and definitely.0:14:10–0:14:22
You have to call it out and be like hey that's that's how I sometimes react when I'm under a lot of stress or have strong emotions but I hear you I understand what you're saying and I'm taking the feedback one way to0:14:22–0:14:26
to try to manage emotions is to refocus and focus on the goal0:14:26–0:14:33
that you're trying to achieve with this hot conversation. Obviously this is easier if you're the one delivering the hard conversation instead of receiving but0:14:33–0:14:42
even when you delivering the hard conversation in the midst of having the conversation you could get triggered as well. In some way your emotions could be stirring up as well. Refocus, think0:14:41–0:14:53
what am I trying to achieve here is going to get angry or defensive or whatever else going to help me achieve that goal or not and if it's not going to help achieve that goal you should focus on what you actually want to achieve.
Do you think though,0:14:55–0:15:09
that that is something that can only be self-managed or is it appropriate to if you recognize that maybe the person that you're speaking to is spiraling to help refocus them or should that be left to the person to to self manage.
I think in general it is okay to try to help the other person manage their reactions and emotions as well you want to be careful.
I wouldn't say manage emotions and reactions. I'm just thinking, like you can acknowledge their emotion and say I get that this is upsetting to you, I just want to make sure we stay on topic.
And that is helping manage their emotions. You do want to be careful with that. You can you could very easily upset people even more by but trying to,0:15:38–0:15:40
support them in managing their emotions0:15:40–0:15:49
but yeah you can even offer to postpone the conversation or something right so delivering PSC conversations at work for example0:15:48–0:15:54
bad news for somebody. The employee didn't do well during the half and you have to deliver that and they are starting to tear up or0:15:54–0:16:08
getting angry at you whatever. It is appropriate to say hey you know what I can see that this is impacting you significantly, I understand that. It is not unusual in this situation, how about I give you a day to process all of this,0:16:08–0:16:12
and we come back tomorrow again to talk about the rest.
And another thing too and this is in a kind of a different situation but my experiences I've had to work with or have difficult conversations in almost a third way which is with clients. So dealing with clients who are upset, and0:16:24–0:16:27
managing those conversations. One thing that I found that0:16:27–0:16:41
people tend to respond really well to is know if you talking to him about one thing or they're getting riled up and they start bringing up all these other things and you start getting off track specifically in this role because I have a certain period of time that I've scheduled to talk to this customer to resolve all of their issues0:16:41–0:16:46
so typically the what my approach is kind of to acknowledge this additional problem or tangent, that0:16:46–0:16:51
we gone on, make note of it, let the customer know I recognize that this is also really important to you0:16:51–0:17:00
we can come back to this at the end or if we need to schedule some more time later to talk about the specific issue I'm happy to do so and then do that to kind of get them back on track.
I think you bring up a very interesting point about your,0:17:04–0:17:17
customers, kind of going on tangents and bring up all this different stuff. That is also something that we tend to do a lot. Especially I think in personal relationships when we're having hard conversations where we are trying to talk about topic,0:17:17–0:17:23
and then somebody feels attacked or becomes defensive and then they bring up all these other things are like but what about.0:17:24–0:17:34
What about when you did this or when you did that and then it's very easy to kind of spiral into this back-and-forth of you did this but you did this but you did that.
Here all the things I hate that you do and here all the things that I hate that you do.
Then you're just unloading all your dirty laundry basically. Just dumping it on the other person and completely forgetting or losing all the focus on what you are actually trying to achieve, your original goal even if there are a lot of problems in your relationship,0:17:50–0:17:57
you won't be able to fix them all in one conversation. So leave them at home, focus on what you're actually trying to solve and to fix.
An for work example. if your manager is talking to you about an issue and then you start saying, well but so and so did the exact same thing. This conversation is not about so-and-so, this conversation is about you.
As a general guideline like try to remain respectful at all times, even if the other person becomes unfair or is lashing out at you. You need to be the one0:18:19–0:18:20
that keeps their calm,0:18:20–0:18:30
and manage the situation and does not escalate the situation even further. So, try to always remain calm and if you if you noticing that you like tilting, maybe0:18:30–0:18:38
refocus do some of those breathing exercises, take a sip of water, try to find your balance, and move forward with focus on the goal.
And then I think the other thing in this goes back to the whole being direct but respectful but like don't beat around the bush. Get to the point as quickly as you can0:18:47–0:19:04
and my personal opinion in as few words as you can because the longer you talk and draw out and give all of this let me set the foundation for this one thing that I have to say to you and the other person feels the build-up and knows that something is coming, it's like you're winding them up.0:19:05–0:19:13
Like those wind-up toys and then you get to your point and you let them go and then they are like vroooom.
No absolutely, for the other person that's receiving that communication, there's a looming threat lingering on the horizon and they can clearly see it coming but it's slowly and slowly.
And you might think that you're it's like it's with good intent that you're providing all of this to set the foundation but it's like just say what you need to say and then you can take a step back and provide the context.
I think you touching it right now we we should briefly to talk about it as well, you should always assume good intent.0:19:43–0:19:53
Like more often than not if people say something, maybe even things that sounds a little bit awkward, a little bit offensive, we should assume good intent because more likely than not they do have good intent.0:19:54–0:20:03
o then next we want to talk about how you can structure a hard conversations or how do you go into a hard conversation, and how do you deliver the primary statement or point that you want to make,0:20:03–0:20:11
in a way the other person can be receptive to it without immediately feeling attacked or threatened I think there's three to four steps,0:20:11–0:20:20
really the third and the fourth are very tightly entangled to each other but the first step is to state an observation,0:20:20–0:20:23
and you want to do this as factual as possible so0:20:23–0:20:31
we're going to go into this in more detail in a second but basically make an objective observation or an object of fact that is not disputable.
Right and then once you stated that share how it actually affected you.
Right or how it makes you feel or how it affect the people around you or.
This is the subjective part to the objective statement.
Exactly so for example you could say something like, yesterday you did not answer my call. Which is an objective fact. I felt like you were ignoring me, which0:20:54–0:20:59
is a subjective interpretation maybe the other person was in a meeting and couldn't respond or.
This is something that we know well. It's like a common theme here.
But the point is one is an objective observation the other one is interpretation.
We stated our objective fact, we give our subjective feeling and then we asked the question. So, you didn't pick up your phone when I called you yesterday. I felt like you were ignoring me. Were you ignoring me when I called you yesterday?
The third part is to ask a question. So you you open up with your observation and how it made you feel or how it affected you or people around the other person and then you want to ask a question maybe a little bit more eloquent than that.
Okay but but the point is is that instead of saying you ignored me when I called you yesterday. I mean obviously it is I'm boiling it down very easily but instead of when you just tell someone you ignore me when I called you that that's a immediate.
Judgement and its interpretation of behavior.
And they're immediately going to feel defensive.
And it's not assuming good intent, it's assuming that the other person did their behavior on purpose and it completely ignores there might have been legitimate reasons for what they did.
So if I then instead of telling you that you ignored me, I asked you were you mad at me, did you ignore my call?
Yeah I mean I think even better than asking did you ignore my call is for example to say did I do something wrong? So, you didn't pick up the phone, I felt you were ignoring me. did I do something wrong?0:22:26–0:22:29
Invite invite a dialogue and.0:22:29–0:22:43
Sometimes it's worth to kind of make yourself a little bit vulnerable because the other person than can recognize that you're not there to attack them or to hurt them because you would not have any reason to make yourself vulnerable in that situation,0:22:43–0:22:47
be here to resolve a problem and you happy to play a part in that.
And then after you ask your question, number four is you need to listen to what they have to say.
So don't ask a question and immediately interrupt them when they start answering even if they say something that you may not like let them finish let them explain themselves,0:23:01–0:23:09
let them get angry right you're the one that manages the situation and then keeps your calm. So now that we have the oval structure established,0:23:09–0:23:17
let's talk a little bit about some little tricks or strategies that you can apply throughout the conversation or within the context of the structure,0:23:17–0:23:22
we're all familiar with the children's game telephone in case you're not it's basically0:23:22–0:23:36
one person whispers a word to another person's ear and they whisper to another person, and they whisper to another person who whispers to another person and along the way people misunderstand what was said or didn't understand it all and the word tranforms and changes,0:23:36–0:23:43
and in the end something completely different comes out than what was originally said. And a lo of times in these hard conversations because of how0:23:43–0:23:51
our brain works and how our emotions because our emotions are stirred up like all the blood is in our body for fight or flight mode and it's all0:23:51–0:24:02
there's no blood in her prefrontal cortex to actually do any reasonable thinking anymore or reasoning and thinking. We don't hear what the other person is saying. They might say you didn't pick up your phone0:24:02–0:24:10
I felt like you're ignoring me. What you understand is, you asshole ignored me all day long and you react in an unreasonable way0:24:10–0:24:19
the way that you want to fix this is you want to clearly separate fact from fiction. We talked about this briefly in the in the structure you want to start with facts and then.0:24:20–0:24:22
add the subjective parts afterwards0:24:22–0:24:35
and so there are two sides of the same coin basically. So we briefly talked about how you can separate fact from fiction when you're speaking but you can also do it when you're listening but maybe we should do some examples or some more examples. Let's start with the,0:24:35–0:24:38
what you can do when you're speaking to the other person.
Right so again we want to separate fact from fiction or are interpretations of the facts. So for example, I say you just started yelling at me out of nowhere and were clearly trying to ruin our entire evening.
So what are facts here, what is fiction?
So the fact is that you were yelling.
And it's interesting because when you look at a sentence the facts and the fiction are they like intermingled.
Sometimes it's hard to pull it out.
The fiction here that you started yelling unprovoked. Do you know that? That's your interpretation, maybe the other person feels completely different about that and they were out to ruin the evening. There's a lot of malice required0:25:16–0:25:26
to to pull something like this off and a kind of violates the whole concept of assume good intent right. So those are just interpretations, the only fact in this whole story is0:25:26–0:25:33
somebody was yelling so what would be a better way to present this fact and those interpretations separately.
So if we go back to our structure. First I'm going to state my observation, you yelled at me. Then I'm going to say how that affected me,0:25:43–0:25:52
it felt like it was unprovoked, I understand this was not your intention, but in that moment I was under the impression that you were out to ruin our evening.
And so we separate the fact and fiction, we made sure that we assume good intent, we say I understand that this was not your intention but in the moment,0:26:01–0:26:13
it felt like it so this is my this is something up you can have a conversation around. Where as the first sentence, you just started yelling at me out of nowhere and were clearly trying to ruin the evening, there's no conversation in there this is just an argument0:26:13–0:26:18
so how can you approach the same concept while listening when you're receiving communication.
So, like when you're on the receiving end of some say feedback on something0:26:22–0:26:35
I think the first thing is to make sure that you're being honest about your interpretation of what they just stated cuz you might give me feedback on something and I will then tell you back what how I interpreted that and that may not match what you have said at all0:26:35–0:26:38
so just make sure that you're on the same page.
How would you do that like what?
So you go back to what we been saying over and over again. Assume good intent right. Assume this person is giving you feedback with good intent and then you can reflect their statements back to them to confirm whether or not your interpretation is what they are saying.
And the reason why you would want to do that is to show the other person a that you are understanding0:27:01–0:27:11
what they are saying and be that you are fair in their interpretation and that you assumed good intent and that you care about this and that you are0:27:11–0:27:19
constructively working with them instead of just shutting down or becoming defensive or misrepresenting what they're saying.
And I think this is really good if you are the kind of person that actually does get defensive very easily so when someone starts delivering0:27:25–0:27:38
feedback to your mind is immediately starting to go to thinking about all these things that you're going to say. You're not listening to what that person is saying so by forcing yourself to confirm back to them0:27:38–0:27:43
it kind of like puts the brakes on the defensiveness for a moment.
So let's do an example, so in this case we have a work example. So imagine the following sentence being said0:27:50–0:28:01
phase two will take way longer than 2 weeks probably 4 or even 6. It will create ripple effects for the entire timeline and we will never ship on schedule. We may as well cancel the project if we don't get that sorted out.
Are you saying my proposal sucks and we should kill the project.
Right so what just happened there?0:28:07–0:28:16
I think if we look at what has happened what this response means, it's clearly and dishonest reflection of the previous statement. No, nobody said that the project.0:28:17–0:28:20
sucks or needs to be killed right but it's like0:28:20–0:28:35
somebody was trying to make a point about if we can't figure out our schedule correctly then this can have significant negative effects on all the rest of the timeline and then we may as well like if we don't if we can hit our timeline then we may as well not start a project at all.
These are some unrealistic timelines, it's going to affect a lot of people, so we need to figure out how to make them more realistic otherwise it probably doesn't make sense to do the project.
I think the biggest problem and again here with this response, it assumes bad intent, that the person saying are you saying my proposal sucks should kill a project.
Literally not what I said.
It assumes bad intent, they don't see that the other person clearly has good intentions in trying to fix a problem that they see.
So that it doesn't fail.
In the project so that it doesn't fail exactly. How could a better response look like or sound like?
So a better response again, so we want to reflect the statement back and we want to do that with good intent so0:29:20–0:29:30
a better response might be, I understand you're saying that we should revisit the proposal to iron out our scheduling problems in phase two that you believe could otherwise lead to a project failure.
Right and this is,0:29:32–0:29:40
a very fair reflection of the of the previous statement, it assumes good intent, it assume that the goal that the other person has is to prevent a project failure.0:29:40–0:29:43
This is something that a conversation can be had around0:29:43–0:29:53
on the previous statement. The are you saying my proposal sucks one? No that's that's just an argument again that's just people getting angry at each other that's not a conversation. Nothing good is going to come from that response0:29:53–0:30:07
I think another great strategy or tip for how to have hard conversations is be willing to listen and validate the other person and what they're saying. So you can do this by reflecting some of the things back at them that they're saying or by just agreeing. Obviously0:30:07–0:30:19
as far as you do agree if you do not agree nobody forces you to say oh yeah you're right. That's not the intention here, but the idea is to build trust and common understanding and build a foundation0:30:19–0:30:21
that you can have a conversation around.
And it's as easy as anything like good point or that's a great question or I like you said I agree I agree with that. You know sometimes people feel like they're talking into a vacuum so it's.
Yeah and it helps deescalate the situation as well, right?
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I think another roadblock that comes up when we have these types of conversations is the uncomfortable silence. I don't know what it is about silence that makes people uncomfortable.0:30:55–0:31:00
and when there is an uncomfortable silence there's kind of this,0:31:00–0:31:07
initial immediate urge that we have to want to fill that silence or for somebody else to fill that silence,0:31:07–0:31:15
one thing that you can do with uncomfortable silence is to just embrace it like just sit with the silence for a minute,0:31:15–0:31:20
give both parties the opportunity to think about what they want to say next.
Yeah it can can help calm down emotions, gives everybody an opportunity to arrange their thoughts, and that's a you in a situation where you said it questions the other person and I'm like,0:31:34–0:31:35
How do you think about that.0:31:37–0:31:47
and now there's second of silence and then there's another second of silence and suddenly the person that just has a question is like you want you want us to talk again.
Well I mean if it's that big of a deal than maybe we shouldn't even talk about it, if you can't think of something to say.
It's so slow down give silence a chance,0:31:59–0:32:10
let the other person think about what they want to say and how they want to respond and give them a chance to respond. This ties back into the fundamental structure, ask a question and then listen.0:32:11–0:32:20
If it takes three four five seconds for the other person to respond, then wait three four five seconds for the other person to respond. I recently heard from an ex teacher,0:32:21–0:32:34
that taught classes, I think in high school that they actually have a recommended seven seconds that you should wait when asking a question to the class before you,0:32:34–0:32:35
answer it yourself,0:32:35–0:32:44
like if you think about it how long seven seconds can be when you're the teacher you're like what's the name of the ship that Columbus sailed across the Atlantic.0:32:46–0:32:58
two three seconds, I'm just going to answer it myself. Wait give people a chance to think about it and to muster the courage to respond to themselves, right?
So I think is important to be aware that you might finish your point and you may need to wait for,0:33:05–0:33:16
the person that you're speaking to actually respond because they may need to think about what you have just said and then form their response and it may not be immediate it may take them a little bit more time.0:33:16–0:33:31
So this is when you can utilize that meta conversation. If I've said something and I've made my point and you're sitting there in silence and it's starting to kill me on the inside because you haven't responded. I can just easily say, do you have a response? Do you have anything to say about that?0:33:31–0:33:37
It can give you the opportunity to say, oh I'm just thinking. Yes, I do have response and just thinking about it.
Absolutely yeah let's get into meta conversation. SO the idea is when we say meta conversation what we mean is, that is a conversation.0:33:48–0:33:49
About the conversation,0:33:49–0:33:59
instead of about the actual topic that the conversation is about. So what does it mean? One example is that you can just describe,0:33:59–0:34:07
what you are currently doing or how you're reacting. So for example if somebody gives you feedback and your immediate response could be.0:34:07–0:34:21
Oh wow that was tough give me a minute to think about this. You're not actually talk about the topic you're just describing what you are going to do or having a conversation about the structure and if the flow of the conversation and,0:34:21–0:34:31
what this does or what does can do is help keep the conversation on track but more important it can help resolve, what's it called?
Ambiguity. So what's an example?
Yeah I'm sure a lot of people are like, what the fuck0:34:36–0:34:45
these guys talking about I thought. So let's look at some examples to make it a little more clear. One thing you can do for example is you can acknowledge,0:34:45–0:34:53
complicated or uncomfortable situations right and by doing that you kind of relax the situation a little bit you can say for example,0:34:53–0:35:05
oh I can see this makes you uncomfortable. Would you like me to give you some time by yourself? Again this is not actually a conversation about the topic this is meta conversation.
Other things that you can do is to be aware of the things that you tend to do during a conversation and actually call them out so we talked about little bit earlier when I mentioned that you start to cry,0:35:16–0:35:18
I said saying sorry like,0:35:18–0:35:27
this is kind of my initial emotional response to feedback like I'm listening or you know I tend to come off strong in conversations like this,0:35:27–0:35:36
you know I apologize what I actually wanted to say was.. So just if you recognize in yourself that you have these kind of reactions and other folks might0:35:36–0:35:45
be taken aback by, kind of call it out as letting them know that you recognize this about yourself and it's not your intention to come off a certain way.
Right it's not going to be an impediment to the actual discussion of the actual conversation,0:35:50–0:36:01
I think another great example of where I'm at a conversation is going to be very helpful is when you are kind of suddenly changing the direction of the conversation or kind of needing to0:36:01–0:36:06
rewind the conversation to a previous point. So one example is to say something along the lines of,0:36:06–0:36:17
I'm not sure if we're making enough progress here. Let's rewind a little and get back to the original goal. Maybe at some point in the conversation you're realizing this is just not going anywhere, how we're going to fix this? Well,0:36:17–0:36:23
just be frank about it be like, let's take a step back and let's go back to the original point and continue from there.
That's one of my go-to phrases. I'm going to take a step back, or I think we're getting a little off track so why don't we take a step back that's one of my go-tos.
I think this is another important thing even if you've never heard that term meta conversation. A lot of people do this all the time but you just don't know, you don't notice and you're not aware of what this is called.
You can also use it to help reinforce a point, I'm just going to let that sink in a little bit.
And you talk about this multiple times already but reflecting at them what they just said. It's a great way for validating what they said and trust building. So you could say something on that so if along the lines of, if I understand you correctly you are saying.0:37:08–0:37:12
Dot-dot-dot. I want to briefly touch on this, we didn't talk about this earlier but.0:37:13–0:37:22
This whole reflecting at people what they're saying. There's actually a term for that out of classic debate, it's called steelmanning. So the idea is,0:37:23–0:37:33
steelmanning is in contrast to what is called a strawman. To strawman, in classical debate is, if you are misrepresenting somebody else's statement or opinion.0:37:34–0:37:47
In a way that makes it trivially easy for you to take down their statement. So an example for this could be you saying, oh we need to replace all fossil fuels over the next 20 years with solar power,0:37:47–0:37:57
to combat climate change and a strawman that I could do from this is to say, oh so you want to get rid of all fossil fuels,0:37:57–0:38:06
and replace them with solar by tomorrow? How is that going to be possible? Everybody's going to lose their job in fossil fuels like in oil industry or what.0:38:07–0:38:15
What I really did is I misrepresent what you said there. I completely dropped the over the next 20 years as this is a slow process that is considerate and then,0:38:16–0:38:20
progresses slowly with, oh this has to happen immediately.0:38:20–0:38:35
Because it's immediate it will have a significant impact on the economy that is like not accounted for. By misrepresenting your statement by building a straw man, it is very easy to take down this argument right? You can just say, well that's stupid. And so in contrast to a straw man is.0:38:35–0:38:44
building a steel man or steelmanning somebody else's position is basically if you make a good intention effort to.0:38:45–0:38:48
accurately and positively0:38:48–0:39:00
reflect somebody else's statement or position. So again is ties back into this whole concept of reflecting to them what they're saying and doing it with good intent and it shows the other person that you,0:39:00–0:39:08
have good intent and that you're when you actually are attacking their arguments that you're doing you're attacking the best version of their arguments,0:39:08–0:39:17
I think the last tip that I want to get at of this a couple times before, I like to call it the Golden Rule.
I don't think actually we've mentioned this at all yet.
We didn't call it the golden rule but a couple times like we mentioned already like in any conversation the one person that can remain reasonable is always you.
Right so the golden rules very specific0:39:31–0:39:45
because and I get what you're saying but we didn't flat-out say these words. But the fact of the matter is you cannot change other people you can only manage yourself and your emotions in any situation and this is like a common,0:39:46–0:39:55
tool statement that is used in a lot of ways because for some people we have this natural urge to try to,0:39:55–0:40:04
either impact how somebody else feels about something or get someone else to change their behavior to fix a problem when0:40:04–0:40:13
in reality you need to accept the fact that you do not have control and you cannot change other people all you have control over is yourself and how you react to those.0:40:14–0:40:15
What this means and the fact is that even if the other person misbehaves entirely during your conversation0:40:21–0:40:32
pointing fingers is not going to fix that and not going to improve that. The only thing that you can do is use these tools and the skills that you hopefully have learned in this episode too,0:40:32–0:40:39
improve the situation by implementing it yourself and not depending on the other person to implement them because they might not.
Right and this is almost you know we mentioned this earlier that sometimes the outcome of these conversations are not always good. Sometimes they bring to light something that you didn't consider or maybe it's taking it in a direction that you're hoping it wouldn't go but0:40:52–0:41:01
based off of you know everything that's been discussed maybe you're going to choose to leave your job or maybe you're going to choose to leave your partner but0:41:01–0:41:10
trying to manipulate that conversation to get the other person to change or behave in a way that you want them to so that you can get what you want that's not going to work.
And it's got dark quickly.
Sorry I mean but it's that,0:41:14–0:41:32
but I think that is one of the reasons why people have such a hard time with these conversations is because you want them to end a certain way and sometimes we will unconsciously try to manipulate the other person into into responding or behaving in the way that we want them to so that we can get the outcome that we want and0:41:32–0:41:38
sometimes the outcome is you're not going to get what you want the goal here is to have an honest conversation.
And not misrepresent things.
Obviously but I think when you're saying manipulate the other person. The word manipulate is so negatively connotative but yes a lot of the things that we talked about in the end,0:41:54–0:41:57
our about manipulating,0:41:58–0:42:06
our own and other person's behaviors we decide to do specific things to deescalate the situation to manage the situation,0:42:06–0:42:14
to calm down our emotions to allow the other person to constructively respond to what we're saying so we0:42:14–0:42:21
the word manipulate is very strong and that sense but yes it is kind of like we was structuring the conversation in the way.0:42:22–0:42:24
Will make it more likely to be successful.
So let me be more specific, what we've been practicing is kind of in the meta conversations that this might be uncomfortable or you appear to be uncomfortable or,0:42:36–0:42:40
you appear to be upset versus telling someone you need to calm down,0:42:41–0:42:50
right so one is I'm just reflecting what I'm interpreting based on the things you're saying another is like me attempting to control you by telling you to calm down.0:42:51–0:43:00
So I mean this may be off topic but I think it kind of goes back to choosing your words and reflecting observations versus actually.0:43:00–0:43:02
Trying to control the other person.
Yeah I think actually there's an interesting tidbit there as well that we haven't really shed much light on up until this point and that it is,0:43:10–0:43:18
when you making subjective statements make sure that it's clear that there's subjective so,0:43:18–0:43:26
don't say you are upset but say it seems like you're upset or I'm under the impression that you were upset.0:43:26–0:43:34
And that is not to weaken your points this is because reality is there is a lot of interpretation in something.0:43:35–0:43:46
You are upset but then you want to make it clear that this is your own perception of the situation and not something that is fundamentally true because you're the person I feel completely different about it.
And then similarly to how we brought up0:43:50–0:44:04
preparing for a conversation right taking the steps to prepare for these conversations I also think it's really important to talk about how to successfully end these types of conversations right because these emotionally loaded areas of conflict when we have these kind of conversations0:44:04–0:44:18
they can get out of control and 4 hours later you're still talking about this topic or maybe your this is a professional conversation and you've only got 30 minutes to talk to the person so how do you successfully end the0:44:18–0:44:19
Yeah I think there's multiple possible outcomes. Ideally the best outcome is you come to an absolute agreement. Obviously not every conversation will end that way but this is really what we're aiming for what we're going for so,0:44:32–0:44:38
what this means is you goal was fully achieved. When the goals is fully achieved generally both parties should feel,0:44:38–0:44:48
good about this maybe you gave somebody critical feedback and it was really hard to deliver this feedback and the other person was like oh yeah I see where you're coming from,0:44:48–0:44:53
I see I'm doing this behavior or I did this mistake over here and,0:44:54–0:45:01
I'll work on improving it. That's the ideal outcome, this is what we hope we will get out of this conversation and why we have them.0:45:01–0:45:12
It might require some follow-up action items so obviously if this is the correct the feedback in some way you want to make sure the other person actually implements the changes.
And if you're the manager that you are setting expectations clearly about what you expect moving forward.
But in general the end to such a conversation is pretty straightforward and you shake hands or hug each other and everybody's happy.
If we're talking about a personal conversation then maybe you know you've given your partner some feedback it was rough but they understood where you're coming from and at that point then you.0:45:41–0:45:56
If we're talking about expectations it's kind of now that we're in agreement that this is a problem and both parties accept that it's a problem you can then be in a position to say okay what are the steps were going to take to fix this or address this to be sure that this,0:45:56–0:45:59
behavior doesn't happen again. So it's in both contexts.
Right and this actually a really important point, if you.0:46:05–0:46:15
If you come to a conclusion in a hard conversation like this and you agree that there is a problem and you make a promise to fix it.0:46:15–0:46:16
Right and that's something I think in personal relationship, it feels like you've achieved the hard part by having the conversation so it's like, whew we've had that conversation.0:46:26–0:46:37
I feel better now, they're not upset, they recognize it as a problem too, and we can hug it out be happy. But then it's like if you don't actually discuss steps to like remedying the issue you're just going to end up having this,0:46:37–0:46:38
conversation over and over again.
Yeah but even one step further right that you can discuss the steps to fixing the problem but actually nothing is worse than or can hurt trust more than you.0:46:51–0:46:56
Acknowledging a problem, agreeing, to fixing it, and then don't follow through with it,0:46:56–0:47:04
I think another outcome for the conversation is I called agreeing to disagree,0:47:04–0:47:11
really what we mean with this is the goal that was at hand was not fully achieved so this could be0:47:11–0:47:20
that the other person does not agree with some fact or some interpretation or maybe they're saying like oh the feedback you're giving me I don't agree with that,0:47:20–0:47:21
a lot of times you0:47:21–0:47:31
you might be able to achieve a compromise, so maybe the person says, you know I don't agree with your feedback but what can I do to improve the situation for you anyway0:47:31–0:47:36
so you might not be able to fully achieve the goal of that you had when you went into the conversation but0:47:36–0:47:46
at least nobody leaves the conversation completely upset in the most extreme form of this and this is why I like the term agreeing to disagree. Is both parties are just like,0:47:46–0:47:53
no this is not working, I can see I made my point you made your point and we just don't agree.0:47:53–0:48:00
There's no way that we can square that with each other and we just have to walk out of this conversation without having achieved anything.
Yeah and then that leads into what we've been talking about where it's like having these difficult conversations may end with an unsavory,0:48:09–0:48:15
outcome right especially if this is a personal interaction. You try to talk about something that was difficult to talk about0:48:15–0:48:26
turns out you got nowhere with it and at the end of the conversation you both are still in the same place that you were at the beginning which may be a factor an indicator that to the extreme maybe maybe we shouldn't be together if this is like0:48:26–0:48:33
that it was something that we can never agree on. So say specifically like if one person wants have children in the other person doesn't. That's not something that you could,0:48:34–0:48:36
necessarily compromise on.
Maybe, depending on the exact nature of I want children and I don't want children. Maybe adopting as an option may be getting a dog as an option I don't know.
But I'm just saying like if one person if your0:48:48–0:49:01
if you and your partner if you want to have a child and your partner doesn't want to have a child and you start this difficult conversation you say, hey I know that you we've talk about this and you said that you don't want children but I really want children0:49:01–0:49:07
is there anything that we can do like work towards that goal and the other person says no sorry like I don't want kids,0:49:07–0:49:12
like then it's kind of like okay well this conversation can't move any further.
I would actually disagree with one thing that you said, that it is, you are no further than you were before the conversation.
Well you know I meant like you've obviously learned something from this.
This is like one of the important parts right away you were trying to build mutual understanding and even if you disagree0:49:29–0:49:36
you now understand the other person's position and you can come to terms with that even if you don't agree even if0:49:36–0:49:48
it doesn't make you happy or is what you wanted you can come to terms with that because you now understand where they're coming from and why they make specific choices and do some specific things.
You've gain understanding but in comparison to our first example hear, both parties don't necessarily feel good about the outcome.
They shouldn't feel entirely terrible about it either you might be disappointed in is not what you wanted but at least you can recognize that you now have certainty and understanding in the situation,0:50:08–0:50:10
I mean especially if you.0:50:10–0:50:21
If your if it's not the extreme end. Agreeing to disagree entirely but there's some form of compromise. Really important especially for this case to set clear expectations and follow up action items.
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I think one last thing that we should0:50:27–0:50:42
talk about is what do you do if you're not making the progress on the conversation. You feel like you're getting stuck maybe the emotions are cooking up and maybe you're just talking in circles again and again and again.
Yeah I mean I think this goes back to the simple having a timeout right sometimes you need to take a break or perhaps postpone a0:50:51–0:50:59
conversation until you're able to think clearly or calm your emotions because you know that you are,0:50:59–0:51:05
riled up that you're unable to think rationally in this moment and therefore you're not going to get anywhere so0:51:05–0:51:11
I think it'd be best if we take some time off of the conversation and come back to it later obviously when you postpone a conversation,0:51:11–0:51:17
there's no resolution in that moment and it's super important actually ensure that you actually.0:51:17–0:51:25
Re-engage the conversation so and that goes back to the whole and preparing for hard conversation that whole scheduling time to talk0:51:25–0:51:31
is even more important if you are going to postpone a conversation0:51:31–0:51:36
for example one of the that I mentioned earlier about like when I talk to clients right sometimes I have0:51:36–0:51:45
only an hour to talk to them and I'm not necessarily getting anywhere with them in that hour but I have a clear hard stop so I have,0:51:45–0:51:53
to essentially say hey we've gotten to the point where we can't really move any further in the conversation but I feel like I didn't resolve all of your issues0:51:53–0:52:02
so I'm going to send you a follow-up to schedule more time so that we can talk about this in the next day or two if you're available. I mean that's obviously that's what I do at work it's a little bit different when you're talking about0:52:02–0:52:10
a personal conversation but I feel like that concept can still be applied if you choose or for one reason or another maybe it's not even an emotional reason,0:52:10–0:52:24
maybe you started having a conversation and you have dinner plans or you have to go pick your kids up from school or something you actually have something scheduled and just maybe start having this conversation at a time that wasn't the most appropriate you got to put it on hold for a minute cuz life happens0:52:24–0:52:28
but you got to make sure that you then set aside time to finish it.
So let's recap, having hard conversations is hard that's why they're called that but it's probably still worth having them.
Right so when you're having hard conversations, you want to remember to manage your emotions, remain respectful, and always assume good intent.
And separate fact from fiction. State the objective facts first then your interpretation or how it makes you feel and give the other person time to speak and to respond don't overwhelm them and listen.
Because if you can master or at least get to the point where you are able to have successful hard conversations you will improve your life, your career, your relationships.
Exactly speaking of hard conversations. If you have feedback for us, please leave that in the comments down below or on Twitter @unmarriedmedia.0:53:20–0:53:22
I'm Danielle, and I'm Daniel and we are Happily Unmarried.0:53:31–0:53:38
But more importantly can resolve amuig.. wow this is a herd word ambig...