Not investing enough time into a ‘difficult conversation’ can be a key derailer and cause conflict despite even the most positive intentions in communication. This might seem simplistic, but not enough time also means not enough attention.
Firstly, this can affect the preparation stage
If you have a message that you need to communicate and it has the potential to be interpreted somewhat destructively and cause conflict, then you need to spend time beforehand planning out what you intend to say. You need to think through not only the content but also how you intend to say it – where, what tone, what impression do you want to make on the other person. Even your body language should be thought about in advance.
Reflect also on what might go wrong – what might they say or do that will put you off track, irritate or frustrate you into responding unhelpfully? Think about how what you have to say might similarly be upsetting to them. Can you find a way to frame it in a way that will have less of a tendency to be ‘taken personally’. And, if they do start to get upset or defensive, how do you intend to deal with that?
The second key time-consuming aspect is in the delivery of the message
Have you set aside a time that you and they won’t be interrupted by the next appointment? Are you just going to ‘hit and run’ or will you be able to give them the time and attention to hear their views. Not only that, but can you take the time to clarify what their understanding is of what you have said.
If you are in a hurry, then you will probably tend to say your bit and want then to move straight to solutions and action plan. Understandable, but remember, you have been storing up this discussion and planning solutions for quite a while before. They however, need to be given the time in the discussion to perhaps vent a bit, get defensive, state their case and hear positives acknowledged. So don’t be tempted to to move too quickly – it really is a case of more haste, less speed.
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