Event Date: 11/21/2018 (2:00 pm EST - 3:00 pm EST)
Sarah: Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, hosted by HRDQ-U and presented by Gary Turner. My name is Sarah, and I’ll moderate the webinar today. It will be about an hour, and if you have any questions, you can always type them into the questions box. We’ll be getting to these questions as they come in live at the end of the presentation, and then we’ll also post unanswered questions on the blog after the webinar.
Sarah: So this is presented by Gary. He began his career in 1968 as a corporate organization development director. He later worked at M&M Mars before founding his own consulting business and becoming a senior consultant with HRDQ.
Sarah: Today’s session is sponsored by HRDQ, and features a theory from their popular reproducible training library course, Navigating Difficult Conversations. This course will help you understand the nature of difficult conversations and what it takes to handle them. And then stay tuned for a special offer on Navigating Difficult Conversations at the conclusion of this webinar.
Sarah: So welcome to [inaudible 00:01:06], Gary, and thank you so much for joining us today.
Gary Turner: Thank you, Sarah. I’m glad to be here today, since navigating difficult conversations is a challenging skill. This is an important workshop [unity 00:01:19] and organizations around the world. As you see on the screen, the workshop is focused on what it takes to handle difficult conversations. We focus on the seven stages of handling conversations. We do a lot of training on empathy in a way that minimizes negative responses and strengthens relationships, and we apply best practices for preparing, initiating, and delivering the conversation. And we discover how to generate solutions and bring the conversation to a close.
Gary Turner: These things are all important. Now, we won’t cover all of these things today. For instance, we’re not even going to touch on empathy, that we do in the full workshop. The reason is this is just an hour presentation on a half-day workshop, so we can’t cover everything.
Gary Turner: But here’s the main thing, is some conversations are really difficult, aren’t they? I would like you to think of a difficult conversation you’ve had in the past year, or maybe a conversation you should have had, but lacked the courage to attempt it. Do you have one in mind? What I want you to do is type in a quick answer, and Sarah is going to read some as they come up on the screen. What was difficult about that conversation, or what made you hesitant to go ahead and have it? Go ahead and start typing in your answers, and when Sarah will get some, she will just start reading them at that point.
Sarah: All right, let’s see. Yes, they’re coming in now. It looks like Steven says they’re too emotional. Heather says, the person’s reaction. Emily says, hurt feelings. Christie says, unsure. And Craig says, annual evaluations, unclear messages, concerns over reactions. Sensitive subjects for people.
Gary Turner: Yes, absolutely. Thank you, Sarah. Well, these are great examples of what makes the conversations difficult. Here are some typical examples that we’ve had in workshops that we do. So we’ve listed here some difficult things that we hear. These all then go beyond the fact that somebody has someone has body odor or someone’s not dressed appropriately for work. They deal with things a listener is not going to want to hear, often deeply sensitive areas. But areas that you must tell him or her.
Gary Turner: So, now, we’re going to chat again. Why do you think these conversations are difficult? Type in another quick response. Sarah’s going to read several of these again. What is it that makes the conversation so difficult? Sarah, are they coming in?
Sarah: Oh, they are. They’re coming in quickly. They’re a little too fast, I can’t … [Milan 00:04:16] just said, uncomfortable. Jess says, I think the improper behavior with a manager. Having to tell individuals something they do not want to hear. A sensitive subject, too personal, afraid of their reaction, embarrassment, unsure how they will react.
Gary Turner: Yes. Well, those are all good. Here’s some of the things also we typically hear in workshops, is the fear of causing hurt feelings. The feeling of powerlessness, the embarrassing yourself, the reluctance to engage in a disagreement or conflict. Some of my professional business is in being a coach, and it always seems that with managers I work with, that I have to push them some to meet the improvement goals that they have. And I know at times I feel uncomfortable with this, even though it’s in the best interest of my client to do so. And I worry about hurt feelings, embarrassing myself, intense disagreements, or other things.
Gary Turner: And in your organizations, similarly, there are managers who often have a grueling time with conversations, even when the conversation is in the best interest of the employee and in the best interest of the organization. There still is some hesitance. And so a training program like this often helps managers think through what they need to do, especially with these seven stages that are covered in the workshop.
Gary Turner: The workbook follows this outline, the workshop covers each of these in detail. Each section has many tips, ideas, suggestions, and models for that stage. So we’re going to follow these seven stages in the rest of this webinar, even though we don’t have time to thoroughly explain each of these stages.
Gary Turner: So we’re going to start there, if you see, number one. Prepare for the conversation. Then initiating conversation, delivering the message, listening and responding, exploring alternatives, closing the conversation, and follow up.
Gary Turner: So let’s start with number one, preparing for a different conversation. I believe this is the most crucial step. Thorough preparation will help with the remaining six steps. So let’s look now at some suggestions for preparation.
Gary Turner: The first thing to do is prepare yourself. Now what does that mean? Well, you have to be mentally and emotionally ready for the conversation. Never even begin planning it while you’re upset or you’re angry with the colleague. Be calm in planning, just like you want to be in the discussion. I like to calm myself down by wearing a favorite shirt to make me feel good when having that tough conversation. So I even plan out what to wear. As a matter of fact, for this phone call here, I planned out what I was going to wear. And it might sound funny, but you need to be thoroughly prepared in yourself, emotionally or mentally or what makes you feel good.
Gary Turner: And the second one I think is almost as huge. Know what you want to achieve. It’s important that you know exactly where you’re going, because conversations can go AWOL. That is, get out of bounds so fast that you need the guiding light to help keep the conversation on track. You need to know where the light at the end of the tunnel of the conversation is going to be, and exactly what you’re going for.
Gary Turner: And, of course, choose the right time and place. Arrange for the message to be prompt and clear. Tell the truth, prepare by seeing the other person’s perspective. These are all some of the basic things about preparation.
Gary Turner: So why, then, is preparation so important? Well, it’s obvious why it’s important. You know that preparation’s going to help you guide the discussion. Several years ago, I was teaching a class in dealing with tough negotiators, and I asked, why prepare? And I still remember a guy in the back of the room started laughing, and he said, “Well, if you don’t prepare, you’re going to hit a brick wall.” And, yes. You need to de-stress, you need to get your message across clearly. You need to cope with emotions. Be ready for left-field responses. You see, preparation is your first huge step towards success.
Gary Turner: Now, just to see this, let’s look at a scenario and prepare. We’re going to ask you to chat in at the end of this. So here’s the scenario. Lucinda needs to tell Michele that the project she just completed is not acceptable. In fact, a significant part needs to be completely redone. Lucinda is not looking forward to this conversation. She knows that Michele worked very hard, and Michele believes she had done an excellent job. Well, there have also been other times when Michele has grown very angry in the face of bad news. So with this in mind, Lucinda knows that it is unlikely that Michele will readily agree to redo the project.
Gary Turner: So here’s the question for you to answer. What could Lucinda do to prepare for this conversation so that it goes as well as possible? Okay, type in some responses for Sarah to read to this question, and Sarah, once again, when you start seeing some suggestions, would you read them? Let’s hear what people have to say about this.
Sarah: Okay, yeah. They’re coming in quickly. Brianna says, gather information … the project the way she did in the first place. That’s a good one.
Gary Turner: Yeah.
Sarah: I see another one is coming from Emily. Prepare a list of parts of the project that were done well to hold as a standard that Lucinda already met. Christine said, identify good points about the project. Michael says, identify the gaps. Let’s see. Edward says, find out the items that need to be correctly or added, but frame it in a way for her to enhance her already good presentation.
Gary Turner: Yes. These are good, thank you.
Sarah: You’re welcome.
Gary Turner: You got another one there?
Sarah: Oh, we have a lot. Robin says [crosstalk 00:11:00]-
Sarah: … lacking in her project. Emily, have a clear understanding of what you’re looking for Lucinda to change.
Gary Turner: Yes, yeah. Thank you, everyone, for your ideas. What I’m hearing in a lot of these is … I heard the gap between what Lucinda saw that was good and what Lucinda sees that is not good, and be able to describe that in specifics.
Gary Turner: So there’s a lot of things to ask yourself, and here is a list of things that we use in the workshop of things to ask yourself. What’s the situation, what are the stakes, what are the facts, assumptions? What about the other person’s perspectives or feelings? What are your feelings, how do you manage your own emotions in this? What’s your relationship with the person, what are your objectives in the outcome? And when and where is this conversation going to happen?
Gary Turner: These questions help you build a framework for building a discussion strategy. And of course, that first one, that situation, a lot of you picked up pretty quickly that the situation is the project wasn’t a complete failure, there were good parts. But there were some parts that were inadequate, and organizing yourself around that.
Gary Turner: So, the first step here in preparation is getting your strategy too. Now, we’re going to chat in again, getting the conversation started. How do you actually start the conversation? I would like you to type in a method that you have used in starting a conversation and a discussion with someone for Sarah to read. Do you tell a joke, like … Did you hear about the turkey that got into the fight? He got the stuffing knocked out of him! Or do you talk about that Kansas City football team that lost on Monday night, or do you chitchat about Thanksgiving lunch? Sarah, would you read a couple responses? How do you get the conversation started?
Sarah: Let’s see. Ruby says, talk about the good things that the employee has done. Don’t go straight into the negative. Beth says, I think you may have a blind spot. Are you open to feedback?
Gary Turner: That’s a good one, yeah.
Sarah: Yeah. Janet says, I would praise and identify the positives first. Heather says, set the stage for expectations of the conversation. Show appreciation for the hard work first.
Gary Turner: Yes.
Sarah: [crosstalk 00:13:41] says, send all negatives with a positive. That’s good.
Gary Turner: Yeah.
Sarah: Tina says, I would open by thanking her for her hard work and acknowledging her efforts.
Gary Turner: Yes, okay. These are good. So we’ll look at a couple things here in setting the stage and getting the conversation started. So first of all, of course, let the person know you want to talk, and arrange a convenient time, and what you want to talk about. And then set the stage. I like this. Sit at a corner or next to another person. You don’t want to sit across the table, on opposite sides of the table. That encourages friction, according to a study done at a couple different universities, that people that are sitting across from each other are more likely to start disagreeing more intensely than people that are sitting in juxtaposition.
Gary Turner: Introduce the subject, get to the point quickly, and like several of you said, introduce the subject with some positives. You did well on the report in this way. I want to talk about these factors, though.
Gary Turner: So here is some conversation openings that get to the point pretty quickly. You’ve probably heard we lost a big contract, I’d like to talk about your performance evaluation, and so forth. Notice that these are quick, they get to business, and also notice that they have the “I” perspective. I have some bad news illustrates getting to the point from your perspective. It avoids the blaming, and a lot of times, starting with “you” or “your report” can put a person on a little bit of a defensive footing for this. And you want to, in some way, just deliver the message from your own perspective.
Gary Turner: Now, how do you deliver the message? You’ve opened up the dialogue. How do you get to the meat and potatoes of this discussion? Well, we have a lot of suggestions in the program. Here’s five suggestions we have on what we call the content of what you’re saying. The content of what you’re saying needs to be clear, specific, with examples, and accurate. You need to ask questions and let the other person ask questions. That’s how you deal with the content.
Gary Turner: But also, we also have some ideas around the process, and here are four of the ideas that we have around the process. That you need to … The process of how you’re saying it, you need to stay calm, avoid distractions, take responsibility when warranted, reframe the situation in a positive light … What are the good things about this situation that’s going to happen? So Lucinda might say, “When the report is redone this way, it’s going to be so much more impressive, and we’ll be able to take it up to the directors in the organization without … and get a lot of positive feedback from them.” So we have the content, we have the process, and here are just some of the suggestions we have in the workshop for that.
Gary Turner: Now, to have a meaningful conversation, you need to have this dialogue. So you need to listen and respond to what the other person is saying. And we have several rules here for this. Here are three rules we’re going to cover. The first rule we’ll call rule one. Stay focused. Get your mind focused, clear your mind. Make eye contact, focus on one idea, ignore distraction. Just focus and stay focused on what you’re to do. You’ve got to concentrate on what is going on.
Gary Turner: And in the second rule, rule two, capture the message of the other party. Be aware of their nonverbals, tone and body language. Be open-minded, avoid making assumptions about what they say. Seek an understanding of the other person’s thoughts and feelings, and avoid telling the other person what to do. Tell them instead what is needed. And then extract the main ideas about what they’re saying and paraphrase those back, that that really captures the message from their point of view.
Gary Turner: So we had stay focused, and now capture the message. Now the third rule. The third rule is that we help the speaker. We help the speaker say things, ’cause they’re going to be a little bit on edge and a little tense with this. So we want to avoid distracting nonverbals. We want to encourage them … I always say when I teach this class, give some grunts. Go, uh-huh, oh, yeah. Okay. It’s about letting the speaker know you’re tuning into them, and this helps the speaker ease the tension that they’re feeling.
Gary Turner: Intercede with some helpful comments so the speaker can recall his train of thought. Keep some facial expressions open. Don’t sit there with a poker face, but have this slight smile, or a slight welcoming expression that’s coming across. Maintain an alert posture, and avoid interrupting. These things help the speaker when they are feeling uncomfortable with this conversation.
Gary Turner: So we looked at staying focused, capture the message, and helping the speaker as the first parts of listening and responding were the three rules, and of course in the workshop, we’ll practice those and help managers be able to know what they do as they’re doing this.
Gary Turner: So now that you’ve listened and respond, we’re ready for stage five, exploring alternatives. What do you do now that you’re ready to come up with solution? What do you do to make sure that they’re bought into solution? What do you do to make sure you get commitment to solution?
Gary Turner: So when you have difficult suggestions that come from them, you have some unexpected suggestions sometimes that come. You have to keep your mind mentally and emotionally in check. So actively listen, don’t take reactions personally, stay calm, keep an open mind. Don’t panic, as these buttons say. When they come up with a suggestion that you know is not going to be a good one, just accept it and say that could be one of the things we do, and keep pushing for other suggestions and looking for other suggestions.
Gary Turner: Secondly, around suggestions, you’ve got these difficult emotions that the person often feels. When you’re asking for suggestions, there’s often a little bit of anger that comes through this. So allow the person to vent. But end the conversation, of course, immediately if the other person becomes violent, and consider carefully what to do if they’re starting to slam their fist on the table, or just getting extremely upset.
Gary Turner: Secondly, tears. Let them get their feelings under control. Let them know you understand … and so take time at that point. Breathe deeply yourself and just let them have their catharsis at this point.
Gary Turner: And finally, they can have extreme frustration with things that are going on in their life in any number of ways. I had a difficult conversation, I don’t know, a year or so ago, and we got so far off track. But the person just was frustrated with things at home and things in their life, and everything from weight gain to a college student who was rebellious. And we just went on and on with their frustration. But acknowledge and empathize, show you want to help, and then get them back on track. Get them back where you need to be with the discussion.
Gary Turner: And then finally with suggestions, explore the alternatives and solutions and know what’s important to you, what is non-negotiable, as well as what might be possible. Know what your must-haves are, I call it. What is it you have to have, and then compare that with the nice-to-haves, the things that would be nice to have, but maybe, I don’t know, they’re possible or they’re not possible. You’ve gotta know your non-negotiables, though.
Gary Turner: And secondly, just keep this collaborative attitude toward a win-win solution, and finally, keep this open mind. Consider ideas although they might not be as workable. And it just takes calm and patience when you come to this suggestions stage, where you’re throwing out the solutions, ’cause you never know what kind of solutions the other person’s going to come up with. And a lot of times the solutions they initially come up with are not as good as things if you keep exploring, you keep discussing. They often come up with even better solutions if they’re commiting themselves too.
Gary Turner: As is true, most of you know that the solutions that they generate are the ones that they’re more likely to give commitment to. The solutions that you generate, there’s a more difficult time getting them committed to that.
Gary Turner: So now that we’ve done this, we’re going to ask you to chat in again. We’re going to talk about closing the conversation. We’ve gotten some solutions, we’ve gotten some ideas about probably the most win-win solutions, the things that would be the best solutions. How do you close out this conversation? Go ahead and type in some things that you think are good ways to close out a difficult conversation, and then Sarah’s going to read some of the answers. Sarah, do you have some answers coming in?
Sarah: From Amy, decide … Oh, that was fast. Summarize the agreed action.
Gary Turner: Summarize.
Sarah: Ebony says, discuss next steps, clearly laid out.
Gary Turner: Yes.
Sarah: [crosstalk 00:25:07] covered anything. Review required action steps and who is responsible. Determine follow up date, thank the person, recap the conversation and action. Ask for updates on progress. A lot of thank yous, set timeframe for actions, let them know that you’re there to support them. Perhaps a check-in time to ensure progress.
Gary Turner: Yes. Those are good, those are really good. I like to call the close of the conversation the www.rolls.com. That is W, what … who, what, and when. WWW. And that helps you know, have I got this? Do I have a when, do I have a who, do I know what that action is? And that helps to clarify the roles and helps you communicate them.
Gary Turner: What I want to look at here is, of course, some difficulty we have here at this stage, and there are two difficulties that we sometimes see with this non-commitment at the end. First of all, some resistance, and secondly, some passivity.
Gary Turner: So for resistance, what you need to do here with resistance is make sure you’ve dealt with the emotional side, and the emotional side requires some empathizing. But it also requires a focus on facts and evidence and the logical side of what the suggestions are. So empathize with the fact that the solution is going to take some extra effort, but focus on the facts of how that suggestion would be a good solution to what the problem is you’re talking about.
Gary Turner: Passivity is often a hard one too. You’ve got to, in some way, if they’re non-committal, ask them questions to draw out their thoughts, and sit and allow silence. Be quiet and let them dig deep themselves into, why are the being passive at this point? What are things that are going on that just make them sit there and not commit the way they are?
Gary Turner: Now, many of you know that people who are generally more analytic don’t like to make quick decisions, and so that’s sometimes why people are passive, because it’s just a personality style that … they take forever to make decisions and to really commit to decisions. And that’s okay if that’s the situation. Maybe you need to do something else with that person that allows them to later get some commitment to what it is they need to do. So these are the tough parts at the closing. That’s sometimes hard to work on and get those things.
Gary Turner: Now, to close this, here’s a few tips we like to give. First of all, avoid letting the conversation drag out. Because this has been so emotional, there are times where the conversation will go on past when it should go on, and just watch for signs for a natural ending. Particularly, some of you in sales know if you get clues about the other party’s agreement to something, just be ready to close at that point. Look for a head nod, look for the picking up the ballpoint pen to sign on the line. Look for something that says they are ready to agree at this point and close it out.
Gary Turner: So be alert for the signs of a natural ending, clarify the next steps. Someone earlier said summarize them, that’s a good way of putting it. Make sure you summarize what’s going to happen. Look for ways to end on a positive note, whatever that positive note is. I like to give an optimistic statement about the future or a positive vision of the way it’s going to be in the future.
Gary Turner: And finally, offer them a chance to add anything that just might have been missed in this conversation. Is there anything else? It’s like when I go to the bank and they cash my check, they give me the money, and then the teller says to me, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” And of course there’s nothing else, the answer’s no. But it’s nice that they ask that, and you need to ask that at the end of the conversation.
Gary Turner: The hope here is that you both are able to smile after this conversation is done. You’ve walked out of the room, you’ve walked back to your office. Can you sit and smile, and can the other person sit and smile? That’s the way you feel like you’ve done a pretty good job.
Gary Turner: And now, there’s follow up. Okay. Now, many of you know what follow up entails, right? It’s accountability, it’s checking to make sure things are getting done. It’s seeing that action is completed, it’s congratulating the other person for action that they do. Well, here’s some other ideas, and this follow up is not about the problem, but it’s about your learning. Here it is.
Gary Turner: Okay. Tips for following up so that you learn. First, keep a journal. When you have a difficult conversation, make some notes about what went well, what you did well, what might be done differently, and learn from that journal. Learn from taking those notes. You learn a lot by just writing some things down. It makes you reflect in a way that helps you learn.
Gary Turner: And secondly when possible, talk to the other person involved in the conversation at a later date. Go to them and ask, how did it go for you? How did it go for you? What might you have done differently to make it go better? How could it have been better? And just see what they say. It looks a little risky, and sometimes you may have tension with this person, but boy, this opens up the opportunity for some real learning. And this gives you a little more to your documentation about, what did I learn from all of this?
Gary Turner: And then find out what others do. The third suggestion here is to share experiences in navigating difficult conversation with colleagues. Be open to hearing what they do, their suggestions for your improvement. You see, the most important thing in this conversation for you is to grow from it. And reflecting on it is the best way to grow and get better next time.
Gary Turner: There are people that much more easily can deal with difficult conversations. And is it just, they were born with it? No, it’s because they learned how to have more difficult conversations, and they’ve gone through and they’ve built up their own repertoire of handling those conversations. So I think this ending here is big, because you will learn more by having a difficult conversation and doing these three steps of reflecting on it than you will from anything else.
Gary Turner: So this is a quick run-through of a half-day workshop, and I know you’ll like this workshop. I really enjoyed talking to you about this important subject, thank you for your attention and participation. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. I’m going to turn the microphone back to Sarah, and Sarah, are there questions that people have typed in or things that we need to close here with?
Sarah: Yes, yes. Thank you so much, Gary. We do actually have maybe about 10 minutes for some live questions. Attendees, go ahead and shoot those into your questions box, and while we wait for some of those to filter in, let me just tell you a little bit about that special offer. This is going to be on the HRDQ [inaudible 00:33:58]. And for a limited time, we are running a 15% discount on it. This includes a four-hour training event, instructor guide, participant guide, PowerPoint presentation, course overview, learning summary, learning materials, action plan, and course evaluation. So if you want more information, head over to hrdqstore.com for more information on that.
Sarah: So let’s see, yes. They’re coming in now, and our first question is coming from Allison. Empathy, how to not take their side, how much is too much?
Gary Turner: Well, there’s, first of all, Allison, a big difference between sympathy and empathy. Okay. So sympathy has more of a tendency to take their side. Sympathy is not good. What you want is empathy. I can understand why there’s been so much pressure on you lately. It’s not entirely the same as sympathy.
Gary Turner: So, yeah, in the workshop, we cover … We have a couple pages in the workbook on empathy, and go through some detail around how to handle empathy so that it makes the person feel like you understand them. And that’s the key thing you want with empathy, is for them to feel understood. Is there another question?
Sarah: All right, yes, thank you, Gary. Next question is coming from Nicole. How do you suggest approaching an employee who consistently deflects responsibility to others and takes no accountability for their own work or mistakes?
Gary Turner: Well, I guess I have a couple responses on this. The first one, of course, is to follow the principles we talked about here. These seven steps, the learning from it, and so forth. But definitely, there’s comes a point at which you have to document the poor behavior. You have to work with HR in terms of this person’s performance, and whether this person’s performance is good for the organization and helps the organization.
Gary Turner: So there becomes a time that you take it to another step besides just having the difficult conversation, and that is documenting and whatever your organization does … putting them on probation or giving them a deadline, or however your organization calls it, you may have to go to that next step. And so the first thing I’d say, though, is follow the seven steps here, have that type of a conversation, and then secondly, consider whether it’s gotta go to another level. Another question, Sarah?
Sarah: All right, perfect. Yes, we’re seeing the next question coming from Debbie. What is the right approach to take in dealing with a colleague who persistently takes credit for your work?
Gary Turner: Oh, that’s a tough one. Okay. It’s a difficult conversation. But you need to have objective evidence of that. You need to have objective evidence about what you and that person did, and then objective evidence about what they claim they did, and be able to work with them on that. So you start all the way with preparing here, and preparing by knowing what you want to achieve, focus on the facts, be able to get the facts and gather the facts, all the way through the seven steps.
Gary Turner: But that one’s definitely a less objective kind of thing, and it also becomes a little bit psychological in the need for recognition that people have in this. And that’s a difficult subject to work with. How do we recognize the people that need to be recognized here appropriately for what they did?
Gary Turner: Excellent question. Great chance in the workshop here to explore that and really think through, how do I have that difficult conversation.
Sarah: Yes. Let’s see, next question is coming from Debbie. How do you deal with a colleague who applied for the same promotion that I got and has approached me to express their discontent?
Gary Turner: Would you read that one more time, Sarah? Make sure I understood that correctly.
Sarah: Sure. It’s, how do you deal with a colleague who applied for the same promotion that I got, and has approached me to express their discontent?
Gary Turner: Okay. So you got the promotion, they come and they express their discontent over not having gotten the promotion, I’m assuming. Yeah. Wow. Easy answer again is just follow the seven steps, but this one might take some intervention with another party. It might take some intervention with the person you report to. It might require that. It might just take you sitting with the person and saying, your discontent is concerning me, your discontent with what happened here is starting to concern me, and to have the conversation around that.
Gary Turner: Yeah, that one is another tricky one. And that’s an uncomfortable one to have. I think, though, that if you have a good discussion around that, you might have a real win-win where the two of you are able to work better together. I’m assuming also that part of the difficulty here is that you’re not able to work well at this point. Got another question?
Sarah: Yeah. Next question is coming from Christine. How do you deal with a coworker who holds meetings that are non-productive, no progress is made, and the same subjects are discussed?
Gary Turner: Oh, boy. Once again, I end up saying the seven steps. I hate that I keep giving that as the answer, but it’s going through that preparation again of being able to explain why the meetings are unproductive, being able to have the evidence that says that. And saying, here’s what happened in this meeting, and now here’s another meeting, and now here’s what happened in this meeting, and we seem to be kicking the dead horse over and over again and just not making progress on things.
Gary Turner: So, yeah. I would say try to follow the seven steps, and again look for the evidence of how do you do that.
Sarah: Okay, wonderful. I think we have one more question that came in, and that one is, what about having a difficult conversation with a staff member who looks down on you?
Gary Turner: Oh. Yeah. That’s emotionally hard. You have to have your own confidence when you go in with a person like that. You have to have built up that whole thing about prepare yourself that we talked about. You have to prepare yourself for that, mentally and emotionally. And that person, that person might treat you in a very condescending way. But you need to have an “I’m okay, you’re okay” approach on this, where you’re able to look the person in the eye, for your nonverbals not to be nervous, and so a lot of your nonverbals will come across with confidence and with poise.
Gary Turner: So for that, to follow the seven steps there, one of the things you’ve gotta have as a sideline is, what are my nonverbals during this discussion? Do I give them any cause to say I am beneath them? I would think nonverbals is the key in having a more productive conversation on that one. Any others, Sarah?
Sarah: I think you answered all of them Gary.
Gary Turner: Wow.
Sarah: Yeah. You can still submit questions into that questions box. We’ll be answering those unanswered questions from Gary if we have any more, we’ll be posting those on the blog. So that looks like all the time we have for today. So Gary, would you just like to have any final thoughts before I go ahead and just wrap up for today?
Gary Turner: Just, happy Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a great holiday tomorrow.
Sarah: All right, perfect. Thank you so much again, Gary, and everybody on the line, we appreciate your time, and we hope you found today’s webinar informative. Thanks, all. Bye bye.
Difficult conversations are inevitable in any workplace. Those conversations can create unhappiness, stress, and tension. They can also impair and even destroy relationships. When handled poorly, they are likely to result in serious problems that interfere with productivity and leave everyone involved feeling frustrated and dissatisfied.
You can’t avoid these kinds of conversations, but you can learn how to handle them more effectively. Developing the ability to handle these challenges will pay off in terms of reduced stress, increased confidence, improved relationships, increased trust, fewer problems, better teamwork, higher productivity, and better career opportunities. Here’s how to train employees to have difficult conversations more effectively.
Participants Will Learn
- Understand the nature of difficult conversations and what it takes to handle them.
- Identify the seven stages of handling difficult conversations.
- Use empathy in a way that minimizes negative responses and strengthens relationships.
- Apply best practices for preparing, initiating, and delivering the conversation.
- Discover how to generate solutions and bring the conversation to a close.
Who Should Attend
- Training and HR professionals
- Independent consultants
- Managers delivering training
What Are Difficult Conversations?
Some conversations are really difficult, aren’t they? But what makes them difficult? When we say “difficult”, we mean that conversation presents things a listener is not going to want to hear, often deeply sensitive areas. But these areas that you must tell them. Feelings of powerlessness, fear of embarrassment, reluctance to engage in conflict are all often involved in these types of discussions.
What Does it Take To Handle Difficult Conversations?
A training program like this often helps managers think through what they need to do to train employees to have difficult conversations. Here are seven key stages to keep in mind:
- Prepare for the conversation. You have to be mentally and emotionally ready for the conversation. Never even begin planning it while you’re upset or you’re angry with the colleague. Plan out what you want to achieve as well as details like the right time and place.
- Initiating conversation. How do you actually start the conversation? Let the person know you want to talk, and arrange a convenient time, and what you want to talk about. Set the stage calmly and clearly. Introduce the subject, get to the point quickly, and like several of you said, introduce the subject with some positives.
- Delivering the message. You’ve opened up the dialogue. How do you get to the meat and potatoes of this discussion? The content of what you’re saying needs to be clear, specific, with examples, and accurate.
- Listening and responding. You need to ask questions and let the other person ask questions. That’s how you deal with the content. Intercede with some helpful comments so the speaker can recall his train of thought. Keep some facial expressions open. Don’t sit there with a poker face, but have this slight smile, or a slight welcoming expression that’s coming across. Maintain an alert posture, and avoid interrupting. These things help the speaker when they are feeling uncomfortable with this conversation.
- Exploring alternatives. You will likely have some unexpected suggestions come from your listener. Stay calm, listen, and keep an open mind. When they come up with a suggestion that you know is not going to be a good one, just accept it and say that could be one of the things we do, and keep pushing for other suggestions and looking for other suggestions. Explore the alternatives and solutions, but know what’s important to you, what is non-negotiable, and what may or may not be possible
- Closing the conversation. Review required action steps and who is responsible. Determine follow up date, thank the person, recap the conversation and action. Ask for updates on progress. Set timeframe for actions and let them know that you’re there to support them.
- Follow up. Following up is about accountability. It’s checking to make sure that things are getting done—and congratulating the other person for their actions. Talk to the other person involved in the conversation at a later date and discuss how things went.
This webinar is sponsored by HRDQ and is based upon research from Navigating Difficult Conversations Customizable Course, a training program from our Reproducible Training Library that gives both newly emerging and experienced leaders and managers the tools and techniques for developing and refining their skills. This learning resource will help your organization retain employees and clients, make better decisions, and improve performance. Learn more about Navigating Difficult Conversations at HRDQ.
Training Tools for Developing Great People Skills