Have you ever had any of the following situations:

  • A friend offends you
  • An employee disrespects you
  • A boss is unreasonably critical of you
  • A neighbor does something to irritate you
  • A co-worker continually disrupts you
  • A family member hurts you

If you are like me… and all the other humans on the planet, you probably said yes to virtually every one of those scenarios.  If you didn’t, you might be delusional, or simply unaware of reality. Here is the deal, people hurt us.  And we hurt others.

In most situations, humans respond to offense in one of two ways.  We harbor frustration and anger and let it bottle up, hoping it will go away, or we explode and lash out in response.  Neither of these responses ever makes the situation better.  Hurt intensifies through both responses and we are left in worse condition then at the initial point of offense.

Most of the time the best way to resolve these kinds of situations is to sit down and talk it out.  However, we are ill equipped to do so.  There are no classes in school on how to resolve conflict.  What we need are simple tools and strategies to help us engage these crucial conversations in a way that takes uncertainty and fear out of the equation. Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way for having effective and successful crucial conversations.

Tips for Effective Crucial Conversations

  • Cool Down – Wait until the immediate emotions fade.  A level head is always wiser.
  • Determine the Goal – Before the conversation determine your goal.
  • Have Only One Point – The more topics discussed, the murkier the conversation.
  • Don’t Try to Fix Them – Your goal is to be heard, not to fix the other person.
  • Write it Out – Make a notes for the conversation so you don’t stumble over words
  • Time of Day – Crucial conversations are best at the beginning or end of the day. Either start the day on the right foot, or end the day to control the length of conversation.
  • Eye Contact – Force yourself to maintain eye contact. It will strength your confidence.
  • Keep it Calm – Regardless of the response from the other person, maintain a calm voice and an even cadence.
  • Listen, Don’t Argue – After you have stated the one point you want to communicate, your job is done… from then on just listen. Don’t argue about facts or side topics.
  • Shut it Down – Crucial conversations should not be long.  Express your point, listen and then shut the conversation down.

This doesn’t mean crucial conversations will be easy.  However, following these tips will provide a roadmap for how to prepare and have the conversation.  You will be stronger every time you dot.

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