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  • Writer's pictureLaura Roeven

Crisis. What happens when a conversation derails?

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Uh-oh. You have had one of THOSE conversations where all you walk away with are angry thoughts and unproductive outcomes. What now? Based on the book, Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values by Fred Kofman Ph.D. there are many approaches to take to save the situation and change the outcome. Try practicing these tips in low stress situations. See how they work for you and decide if you want to bring them forward when the stakes are high.

“Love” is the radical respect of the other as a legitimate other. — Humberto Maturana

Turning a difficult conversation into a constructive conversation: Dialog Tips

It starts by wanting to learn about the other in the dialog. It is easy to show up as a knower of our own ideas and solutions. Typically, we are so focused on our own desires and outcomes, we fail to listen. So, the pre-work to the conversation is to show up as a learner. It is helpful to take the tips you learn in this article and share them with the person you wish to dialog well with. Both of you are abiding by the same format to yield honest, safe and constructive results.

Step 1: Listen

Kofman describes this as the ability to “shut up”. Listening is a generous and open-hearted affair. To come into dialog with a stingy heart is to close possibility before you have even begun. So, listen with a generous heart willing to learn the other’s point of view. “I would really like to hear what your process is in this decision. Would you be willing to talk about it with me? I would like to understand your point of view.” This form of listening lets go of personal attachment to the topic and listens fully with the desire to understand the speaker.

Step 2: Understand

Why do you think what you think? The step of understanding is curiosity. After listening to the other, their point of view and their ideas, take an interest in learning more. Robust questions can clarify what gaps there are in recognizing the entire picture. Seeking to understand allows the other to relax and share openly how they see the situation and what creative solutions they found. This understanding is without intent to win, harm or pull something over on the other. It is to fully comprehend what the other is perceiving and thinking through. What is the process to their thinking? In essence, you allow their ideas and solutions first.

Step 3: Clarify

This gem is rarely used and solves a lot of problems quickly in conflict and negotiation. The listener then summarizes what they understood from the speaker. By summarizing the other, the listener can offer respect for the other and make sure what was said is understood correctly. This step also shows the speaker that the listener cares about what is said. This effort establishes that you are interested in making sure you got it right because you care about getting it right. “Did I get that right?” “Is there anything you feel you need to change or clarify about what I summarized?”

Step 4: Reverse Roles

Now the listener gets their turn to go through the three steps. You have modeled how you want to be listened to by your own listening. It is helpful to remind the person you are dialoguing with to follow the same format that you just demonstrated. “I would like to be listened to without interruption. Please ask me great clarifying questions. I look forward to hearing your summary to hear what you got out of what I said.”

Step 5: Dialogue

With a tone of “mutual learning”, both parties can now exchange questions and answers spontaneously. The point of this step is reaching a deeper mutual understanding of the topic, not to resolve.

Step 6: Do we need to agree?

If you have a difference of opinion that does not need agreement, then the conversation is complete. You both have heard each other out in a supportive conversation that deeply listened to the other. This effort and way of listening allowed both of you to share for the purpose to understand the other to benefit the relationship between you.

If you need to agree on the outcome…stay tuned. Next week I will cover the steps to great negotiation. A must for every relationship! Can’t wait? Make an appointment to tune up your connection with a coaching session.



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