The Art of Difficult Conversations

If difficult conversations were considered an art, it would be safe to say that I started out as a paint-by-number kind of guy. However, thanks to the influence of Sheila Heen and trial and error, I am becoming a better artist of difficult conversations.

When it comes to difficult conversations, many of us are stuck in the “paint-by-number” stage.  We either avoid them at all costs or fail miserably. Think of a time when you have failed. Perhaps you exploded with anger. Or, did you just clam up? Maybe you even ruined the relationship! Boy, can I relate! That’s why, like a good artist, we need to admit that there is room for improvement.  Let me share a few tips I have learned:

Tip #1: Have the difficult conversation.

  • Pray
  • Prepare
  • Schedule

Tip #2: Share your thoughts and feelings.

Sheila Heen speaks of two bubbles:

She teaches that we often only have conversations with #1. The true difficult conversation is #2 spoken.

Tip #3: Be humble.

  • Be gracious.
  • Share that you could be wrong.

Tip #4: Don’t get defensive.  

  • Don’t use “you” language but instead use “we” language.
  • Be calm. Calm is a superpower.
  • When we get anxious, adrenaline and cortisol is triggered in our brains and we literally get confused and do not truly remember facts.

Tip #5: Invite feedback.

  • How am I doing as your supervisor?
  • What is one thing that would make me a better boss? Supervisor? Direct report or employee?

It’s true…I am no Michelangelo or Picasso when it comes to difficult conversations. But, I am learning and getting better. The cool part is, so is the staff at Faith Church and the benefits have been a better workplace!

Finally, it’s biblical!

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” ESV

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