Session 10 – Mastering Difficult Conversations 

We then discussed the breadth of difficult conversations, ranging from uncomfortable to crucial. Crucial conversations are those where something has to be responded to urgently, such as about fire, floods, or snow conditions affecting the public somehow. In the workplace, they may be about bullying or harassment.

We moved into a skills practice for difficult conversations, which was a role-play. There were six scenarios; each person could select their scenario and obtain feedback from the group on their performance.  Alternatively,, participants could select a real-time scenario to work on, and discussion about their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the process was very interesting. Of interest was that although the role-play felt unnatural, they continued the learning process while providing feedback to their colleagues and felt that they learnt just as much from that part of the process.

The instructions were quite broad, and I was interested in how the groups approached the task from a group dynamics perspective—it was a subplot to see how the group worked!

You felt the activity was very positive.

In continuing the Mastering Difficult Conversations, we deep-dived into the discussion around the effects of the Emotional Wake and how it could impact leadership and be detrimental to one’s Leadership Brand. The discussions were based on your real-world experiences. We explored your reactions and feelings about the situations and the longer-term impact.  Unfortunately, most of the experiences were negative, providing good learning. We did have one positive situation, which was good to hear, yet all too often,  these are few and far between.

We revisited the hierarchy that could move a difficult conversation to a crucial conversation, which may or may not become a negotiation. In this process, we could see an increasing level of complexity. Therefore, the skills and knowledge required to deal with each of these situations were heightened.

In particular, in this session, we discussed Creating the Environment for Difficult Conversations, and the group was asked, ‘What considerations would you consider when having a difficult conversation?’ The debrief was interesting, and the group developed some great ideas.

Having the right Mindset when going into a difficult conversation is important.  It pays to be very well prepared and even think about the responses you may receive and how you might react. My experience is that most individuals have anxiety when having to have a difficult discussion, and it is. Hence, it is valuable if you can manage your Self-talk. Think about how you manage anxiety normally. You may find yourself clearing your throat, needing a drink of water, having sweaty palms, perspiring and possibly feeling as if you won’t remember what you need to talk about. Preparation will help you enormously. I usually say don’t forget to breathe!

There are times to challenge when engaging in these conversations. This means you may need to up the anti-in terms of the focus, and typically it’s when an individual is not taking any responsibility for a problem. If this is the case, the conversation may escalate into a power play.  I have provided you with some simple questions that may assist in moving the conversation forward. Understand and use effective questioning techniques, use open questions to seek information and understanding and use closed questions when it is time to start obtaining agreement enclosure.

Great contributions by those in attendance. It is very much appreciated.

Slide Deck – Xecellence Session 10
Mastering Difficult Conversations

Mastering Difficult Conversations – S10 1a

Mastering Difficult Conversations – S10 2a
Skills Practice & Discussion

Mastering Difficult Conversations – S10 3a
Environment for Difficult Conversations & Scripts

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