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Making Difficult Conversations Easier

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Making Difficult Conversations Easier

  1. 1. Making Difficult Conversations Easier Mostafa Ewees (PhD) Stanford University at California Assistant Professor at German University in Cairo (GUC) EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT An Info people Workshop 2008 Presented by:
  2. 2. This Workshop Is Brought to You By the Infopeople Project Infopeople is a federally-funded grant project supported by the California State Library. It provides a wide variety of training to California libraries. Infopeople workshops are offered around the state and are open registration on a first-come, first-served basis. For a complete list of workshops, and for other information about the project, go to the Infopeople website at infopeople.org.
  3. 3. “ Success Covers a Multitude of Blunders.” – George Bernard Shaw
  4. 4. Goals for Today <ul><li>Learn how to “approach” a difficult conversation in a way that assures success. </li></ul><ul><li>Learn to understand the factors that make some interactions more uncomfortable then they should be. </li></ul><ul><li>Learn the basics of good interpersonal communication - that makes all conversations easier. </li></ul><ul><li>Learn how timing and focus can help us make difficult conversations - easier. </li></ul><ul><li>Learn how to set goals and priorities so that difficult conversations have positive outcomes. </li></ul><ul><li>Learn the incredible value of reframing in difficult conversations. </li></ul><ul><li>Learn to recognize and deal effectively with “difficult personalities </li></ul>
  5. 5. Our Agenda <ul><li>What Makes Difficult Conversations Difficult? </li></ul><ul><li>The Basics - Better Interpersonal Skills Make for Easier Conversations </li></ul><ul><li>Turning Conflict into Cooperation </li></ul><ul><li>Face to Face - Walking the Walk & Talking the Talk </li></ul><ul><li>Comments, Thoughts, Conclusions, Evaluations </li></ul>
  6. 6. Part I What Makes Difficult Conversations Difficult <ul><li>Let’s remember to think in terms of “individual context.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Different conversations are difficult, for different people, for different reasons. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The “difficulty factor” often increases when we: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assume that the other person thinks, or feels, the same way about the problem as we do. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make assumptions about their motivations. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Please remember, we’re only human. It is impossible not to make mistakes that may offend others. And, if we are very diligent, we can always manage to be offended.
  8. 8. So, Again, What Makes Difficult Conversations Difficult? Is It Difficult Subjects? <ul><li>Like What? </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Is It Difficult Contexts? <ul><li>Like what? </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul>
  10. 10. Is It Difficult Roles? <ul><li>Professional roles? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What roles? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Personal roles? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In what way? </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Is It Difficult Personalities? <ul><li>Traits? Habits? Responses? </li></ul><ul><li>What makes someone difficult? </li></ul>
  12. 12. Is It “Chemistry”? <ul><li>What makes bad chemistry? </li></ul><ul><li>What makes good chemistry? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Some of It Is Fear But of What? <ul><li>The outcomes? </li></ul><ul><li>Reactions? </li></ul><ul><li>Consequences? </li></ul><ul><li>The conflict? </li></ul><ul><li>Social/conversational discomfort? </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Exercise #1: Your Most Difficult Three?
  15. 15. Your Most Difficult Three... Do You See a Theme?
  16. 16. Secondary Gain So, what are the benefits of being difficult to talk to? <ul><li>In a psychological context, secondary gain is a term used to describe any “less obvious” benefits of non-productive behaviors or conditions. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Exercise #2: Aaaggghhh!!! I’m Not. But, if I were, where would I be difficult to talk to? I Don’t. But if I did, where do I get a secondary gain from being difficult?
  18. 18. Part II - The Basics: Better Interpersonal Skills Make for Easier Conversations
  19. 19. Attending Skills Are 65-85% of the Game <ul><li>Your posture and body language create a feeling of involvement on your part. </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriate body movements and attention create a productive atmosphere. </li></ul><ul><li>Use eye contact appropriately. </li></ul><ul><li>A calm, quiet, environment allows for better communication. </li></ul>
  20. 20. When Is Physical Contact Appropriate? <ul><li>In a professional context – perhaps shaking hands as a type of greeting. </li></ul><ul><li>In a personal or friendly context (where there is a pre-existing personal relationship). </li></ul>
  21. 21. When Is Physical Contact Inappropriate? <ul><li>Whenever there is the slightest chance that it will make someone uncomfortable. </li></ul><ul><li>When it is incongruous with the social context, situation, topic, or preexisting relationship. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Exercise #3: First, Let’s Have an Easy Conversation
  23. 23. Exercise #4: Now, Let’s Have an Easy Meaningful Conversation: an Exercise of Interpretation, Insight, and Analysis
  24. 24. Part III Turning Conflict into Cooperation
  25. 25. Everyone hits the target they aim at, dead center – every time. Unfortunately, a lot of us are aiming too low – or else we're simply shooting at the wrong target.
  26. 26. Exercise #5 Let’s Identify Some Scenarios <ul><li>What are some situations that are likely to be difficult for you? </li></ul><ul><li>What makes them difficult for you? </li></ul>
  27. 27. Accept the Undeniable... <ul><li>Wishing that the dynamics or realities of the current situation were different from what they are will not change or improve the reality of “what is.” </li></ul><ul><li>In a sense, that wish is what has made the situation as difficult as it is. </li></ul><ul><li>Often what makes a difficult conversation difficult, is that an issue WILL NOT go away on its own. We have to do something – or it stays bad. </li></ul>
  28. 28. In a sense we can learn everything we need to know about resolving a problem from a sign we see at any mall in the country...
  29. 29. X You are here
  30. 30. The First Rule See Solutions <ul><li>We usually make two mistakes... </li></ul><ul><li>We convince ourselves that there is only one perfect (usually unattainable) solution. </li></ul><ul><li>We get desperate and convince ourselves that there is no solution. </li></ul><ul><li>...usually, neither is true. </li></ul>
  31. 31. The Second Rule Acknowledge the Difficulties <ul><li>If the conversation or subject is difficult, say so. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s OK to say what aspect of the conversation is difficult for you. </li></ul>
  32. 32. The Third Rule Remember We Are Only Half of Any Conversation <ul><li>Ultimately, we can’t control how people feel or what they think. </li></ul><ul><li>We can only do our best. </li></ul><ul><li>This is both scary and liberating. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Keep Light No “Position” Is Totally Intractable <ul><li>Identify the subject - this is harder than it seems. </li></ul><ul><li>Often we find that the difficulty is not what we “assumed” it was. </li></ul>
  34. 34. Use the Magic of Reframing <ul><li>&quot; Framing refers to the way a conflict is described or a proposal is worded; reframing is the process of changing the way a thought is presented so that it maintains its fundamental meaning but is more likely to support resolution efforts... </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;The art of reframing is to maintain the conflict in all its richness but to help people look at it in a more open-minded and hopeful way.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>-- Bernard Mayer, in The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution </li></ul>
  35. 35. Outcomes and Solutions <ul><li>Don’t stand on principle. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t make “winning” your goal. There may be nothing to win. </li></ul><ul><li>The goal is to MOVE FORWARD! </li></ul>
  36. 36. Focus Have an Outcome In Mind <ul><li>Difficult conversations are not casual chit-chat. Don’t pretend that they are. </li></ul><ul><li>Compartmentalize your emotions. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emotions are not thoughts! They tell us something important is going on – but they don’t tell us what or what to do about it. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That’s what thoughts are for. </li></ul></ul>
  37. 37. ... A quick word about emotions... <ul><li>FEAR – throws you into an anxiety filled future </li></ul><ul><li>ANGER – drags you into a revenge colored past </li></ul>
  38. 38. Exercise #6 Master the Zen of “No”
  39. 39. Separate the People From the Problem
  40. 40. Helping “Difficult Personalities” <ul><li>Don’t be a slave to the emotions/tactics of others. </li></ul><ul><li>The Liar </li></ul><ul><li>“ Ms Fragile” </li></ul><ul><li>The Easily Insulted </li></ul><ul><li>The Instigator </li></ul><ul><li>And Other Favorites... </li></ul><ul><li>The Bulldog </li></ul><ul><li>The Bully </li></ul><ul><li>The Blamer </li></ul><ul><li>The Martyr </li></ul><ul><li>“ Mr. Teflon” </li></ul>
  41. 41. The Big Question Confront or Avoid? <ul><li>Timing is everything: the “Broken Window Theory” tells us to address problems quickly... </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Before incidents turn into patterns. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Before small problems become large problems. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Waiting is guaranteed to turn a molehill into a mountain. </li></ul></ul>
  42. 42. It’s Usually Not “Fact or Fiction” <ul><li>It’s More Like Rashomon – there are often several interpretations to every story. </li></ul><ul><li>Hidden Issues? You Bet! Frequently what you are arguing about is never the actual problem. </li></ul>
  43. 43. Part IV Face to Face Walking the Walk & Talking the Talk
  44. 44. Use Good Following Skills to Keep Track of the Conversation <ul><li>Get started - calmly identify the subject </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge your own difficulties in addressing the existing problem – speak for yourself and not for them </li></ul><ul><li>Ask useful questions – don't assume you know someone else’s motivations or thoughts </li></ul><ul><li>Silence is golden – allow them to speak. Don’t speak for them. </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge, don’t challenge their feelings. </li></ul>
  45. 45. Don’t Know How to Start? Try Something Like This... <ul><li>&quot;I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.” </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;I’d like to talk about ____________ with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view.“ </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?“ </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)?&quot; If they say, &quot;Sure, let me get back to you,&quot; follow up with them. </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;I think we have different perceptions about _____________________. I’d like to hear your thinking on this.“ </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;I’d like to talk about ___________________. I think we may have different ideas on how to _____________________.“ </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about ___________. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well.&quot; </li></ul>
  46. 46. Feelings Before Facts <ul><li>Feelings carry more weight than facts. </li></ul><ul><li>Address your feelings in the dialogue – be open and honest. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask them about their feelings and acknowledge them – don’t make assumptions. </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize, acknowledge, and verbalize that feelings are very important – but realize they don’t necessarily dictate actions or outcomes. </li></ul><ul><li>Be Honest. Be Honest. Be Honest about yourself. </li></ul>
  47. 47. Making a Difficult Conversation Successful Is the Sum of All Its Parts. Even When Done Correctly It Is Still Difficult.
  48. 48. Exercise #7 Difficult Conversation: Step by Step Practice <ul><li>Take turns role playing a difficult conversation using the scenarios you created. </li></ul>
  49. 49. Discussion, Questions, Observations...
  50. 50. DON’T FORGET… Please fill out an evaluation before you leave. Thank you and best wishes!

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