“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past . . . we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. . . . I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Charles Swindoll
People who genuinely understand how to communicate and have the difficult conversations have all the power in the world. Think about it. While everyday conversation is important there are a few defining conversations in our relationships and careers that make all the difference. Our success or failure although not permanent, is often determined based on how we handle ourselves in these crucial moments.
Josh asked: “How do you keep cool, calm, and collected when in a difficult conversation or you feel that your integrity is being questioned?”
Thanks for the question Josh. Hopefully I’ll touch on some points here you find valuable. Handling ourselves properly and remaining cool and collected in difficult conversations is a must. Great idea for a post!
The first thing that pops into my head is a Tweet I read yesterday by @networkingJoe via @harveymackay: “When a person’s temper gets the best of him, it brings out the worst in him.” Think about this one and how it applies here.
Important conversations have a lot riding on them so we must be prepared with the right words, questions and mindset beforehand. Words only take second to say but the effects can last a lifetime. As they say in poker, a card laid, is a card played so choose wisely.
Understand these tips and strategies to help you guide your way through the next difficult conversation you face.
The main principles and strategies to remember are:
- Be aware of the situation. Acknowledge (to yourself) what is happening and rather than getting caught in the fire. Listen to your inner coach. Step out. Then step back in.
- Empathize. Acknowledge their concerns.
- If someone is attacking you verbally, (assuming you acted with integrity) it’s most likely a sign of something else going on in his or her life. It is important to remember when accusations start to fly that they are (most often) a reflection of the person’s own self-image or difficult situation they are facing.
- Avoid stooping to their level and slinging mud.
- Rather than reacting. Respond.
- Resist the urge to “prove you’re right” (even, if you know you are). Getting defensive blocks your creativity.
- Speak persuasively, not abrasively.
- Keep listening when the other party blows up – that’s often when they reveal their true feelings
- Ask questions for clarification to pinpoint exactly what they are asking or accusing you of.
- If what they are accusing you of is completely ludicrous – paraphrase back to them what they just said to you using the following words. “Let me make sure I understand you correctly. Is what you’re saying __________.” This is a polite way to control the conversation. When you paraphrase the other party will usually give you their undivided attention. Often times hearing their own words helps them realize their folly. Use voice inflection strategically in your paraphrasing to stress the ridiculousness of their claim and make it sound silly. Again, the goal is to diffuse the situation and end the conversation gracefully, not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
- Hurt people, hurt people. Often times when negative people lash out it is a cry for help.
- Be solution oriented. What is your end goal? How can you creatively avoid the danger points in the conversation and reach a mutually beneficial conclusion to the conversation? Find out their goals, then find solutions.
- Finally, think about why you feel your integrity is being questioned. Are you really being stabbed with a verbal sword or have they under covered a behavior or insecurity you’re not entirely comfortable with? Most of the ugliness we see in the world is our own reflection in others.
Elanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Hope this helps at least a few of you safely navigate the waters of difficult conversations that lie ahead!
Until next week: More energy! More focus! More kindness! Let’s make this the best week of the year!
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