11 Keys to Mastering Difficult Conversations
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High-performing organizations deliver roughly five times as many positive statements (supportive, appreciative, encouraging) as negative ones (critical, disapproving, contradictory). That’s because our brains focus on negative feedback more than positive feedback.
Correct your employees, even criticize or confront them, but do so in a positive context.
We tend to focus on giving employees critical feedback. But, by focusing on their weaknesses, we only create competence. By focusing on their strengths, we create excellence.
Give equal measures of positive and negative feedback. We usually gloss over the strengths, but focus in great detail on the critical feedback. Add examples and details to your positive feedback.
Be objective when you speak about a negative event. Rather than placing blame or evaluating the problematic situation, describe it and its consequences, and suggest acceptable alternatives.
Someone’s smile activates the smile muscles in your own face, while their frown activates your frown muscles. We can discern whether someone is smiling even if we can’t see them.
Your smile is something to think about even if you are delivering feedback over the phone. Smile appropriately to project warmth and goodwill.
You can predictably determine someone’s emotions from their gaze. Eye contact is the crucial first step for resonance, or a person’s ability to read someone else’s emotions.
Make and maintain eye contact when you’re giving someone feedback.
We are acutely aware of the voices of people we consider important, and the way we feel about another person shifts the way we speak. The tone of our voice, more than the words themselves, can give away how we feel.
The way you sit — slumped or sitting tall, arms open or crossed — transmits a message. Having your chest open, arms uncrossed, making sure to keep nodding, smiling, and vocalizing (saying things like “mm-hmm” and “yes”) will make people feel more connected to you.
Stress or anger makes us breathe quickly and shallowly, and when tired or exasperated, we are more likely to sigh. Similarly, we may feel annoyance coming from someone who sighs a lot.
Before your conversation, take some deep, calming breaths, breathing out longer than you breathe in. Exhaling decreases your heart rate and blood pressure. Doing this for a couple of minutes before a meeting will make you and your interlocutor more at ease.
Our minds often wander and we're not present in the moment, with the people in front of us.
When you are not fully present, you are less likely to hear, understand and respond skillfully.
According to research, when dealing with people who are not authentic, we often walk away feeling uncomfortable or manipulated and our blood pressure rises.
Rather than seeing the feedback situation as “work” or a hassle, see it as an opportunity to connect with someone who has their own needs and pain. By remembering the common human experience, you’re more likely to bring kindness and compassion into the conversation.
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