Do you ever find yourself dreading a difficult conversation because you know the outcome will be awkward, embarrassing or confrontational?
Do you often find it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: you dread the worst and that’s what happens?
I’m a big believer in the power of intention. That’s a whole book in itself, so what I want to focus on here is how we fret over and delay difficult conversations. We can tie ourselves up in knots imagining how awful it’s going to be.
Most of us want to be liked and don’t like confrontation, but instead of trying to avoid situations I recommend we tackle them head-on.
For example, a client of mine was feeling uncomfortable about a forthcoming review with one of her team members. She wasn’t looking forward to explaining that things were going to have to change, and she anticipated the individual being hostile during the meeting and de-motivated after.
Unpack what’s going on. Write down all the facts and your feelings about this situation. In the case of my client, she was labouring under a number of assumptions:
- This person won’t like what I have to say
- They’ll go into ‘confrontation and defence’ mode — I’ve seen them do it before
- I’ll be seen as unreasonable
- They won’t like me
For each point, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this true?
- Do I have incontrovertible evidence that this is true?
- If it’s true, how much does it matter?
- Which of my assumptions would have to be false for this not to be true?
Then turn your attention to an ideal outcome (even if it feels unlikely, go with me):
- What would be your ideal outcome?
- What could happen for the highest good of all?
- With that outcome in mind, how would you feel after the event?
- What are your options for creating a better outcome?
Having explored some possibilities notice how you feel about the situation. Has anything shifted? Do you have the beginnings of an action plan that increase the chances of a good outcome?
Sure, this isn’t going to make every difficult conversation a bed of roses, but I bet it’ll change your approach and have a positive impact. Without diminishing the gravity of a situation, play a game with yourself to change as many difficult situations to more positive ones just by adjusting your intention.