In the last post I offered some rules for preparing to have a courageous conversation. Here are the remaining 4 of the 8, taking you into the conversation itself.
Rule Number 5 – be responsible for your part
However much we love to assign blame and responsibility to other people there’s always something that we’ve done to create the current situation. In those two conversations I’m about to have I know my part. In both of them I knew something was wrong and failed to act. I need to say this, and I will.
So before you begin, have a good look inside you and into the circumstances leading up to the conversation. Where were you not clear? When might you have avoided something? What have you grumbled or gossiped about to others? What might you have assumed, without checking if it’s true? What have you been expecting the other person to mind read? Be honest with yourself and then you can be honest with the other person. Accepting responsibility helps the other person to accept their part more easily.
Rule Number 6 – go slowly
Take it gently. Fear and anxiety can lead us to plan everything we’re going to say. Then we splurge it all out without pausing for breath or for a response. Take it slowly. One idea at a time. Allow time for the other person to think and to respond. Allow yourself time to respond.
Listen to what was actually said, not what you were expecting them to say. Be with the person who is actually here, not who you want them to be or have made up they are. Be flexible. Be gentle on yourself and on the other person.
Rule Number 7 – they are doing the best they can
I know that conversations go best when I see the very best side of the other person. When I remember the positive intention behind their behaviour. When I work out what values have been driving their attitudes and their actions.
In addition it’s useful to assume that the other person wants to sort the situation out just as much as I do. They may not know how right now. They may be just as anxious, they may have other things on their mind. So, before you begin, and as you go along, think the best.
Rule Number 8 – acknowledge and say thank you
However the conversation goes, whatever the outcome, do your best to stay present both physically and emotionally. Right to the end. It will help you, the conversation and the other person. And as you complete this conversation always thank the other person and acknowledge anything that they have done to help it along.
Even if you didn’t get the outcome that you wanted. Thank them for telling the truth, even if you found it uncomfortable to hear. Acknowledge them for staying, if they wanted to avoid the conversation or to walk away.
And when you are done take a little time to reflect on what happened. Look for all the things that you did that helped the conversation along. Notice anything that you did that got in the way. Avoid beating yourself up for these, simply learn from them for another time.