Communication does not come easily to most of us. Learning how to have the difficult conversation will give you an admired and respected edge within your work environments. This is just one of the many ways to become a good leader.
I was not always good at this communication art form. Truth be told, in my early career days, I did not care much for communication at all. I communicated when necessary and avoided having to on most occasions.
I viewed communication as a necessary evil and not a tool or practice that could help me become a better follower, leader or human being.
All the labels gave me protection.
Being described as an only child, an introvert, results-driven, intensely focused, a high performer. All the right descriptives were assigned but, when the time came to communicate, I retreated, shut down or went out fighting.
If this resonates then read on. This could well be the start of some much-needed changes.
Be Prepared – Difficult Conversations Are Never Easy
Communication on its own takes a lot of learning, development and practice. Developing your skills in the difficult conversation’s arena will stretch you even further and in more ways than you could ever imagine.
That is, if you are not prepared.
This is your starting point. Prepare yourself for going into battle or at the very least, a boxing match. Pay attention to the details and do as much research as possible.
By research, I am referring to knowing your fellow players (not opponents, but more on than later), what they bring to the table, their behaviours, experiences and objectives.
These details will feed into your strategy for managing the conversation and directing the outcome.
Issues like hidden agendas and ulterior motives may surface as you move through your conversation. These realisations may bring changes to the situation so always be prepared for some blind siding. Difficult conversations’ tend to push the “wrong” buttons and when that happens things could “go south”, fast!
Details in communication are often taken for granted. I know that, prior to my conscious awareness and self-management, I communicated very carelessly. It took a lot of inner acceptance, self-discovery and transformation to become good as a communicator.
Although today, I am sought after as a Counsellor, Facilitator and Mediator, I am still learning, growing and adapting. That is the Kaizen aspect of life. The day you stop learning and growing should be the day you die.
With this in mind, reflect on your details. Those little things about yourself that you may take for granted and which will probably come to the surface quickly when you are in a difficult situation.
If you are not comfortable or if you are being challenged and you feel like your back is against a wall, you will become defensive. In that position you will start to react. Your fellow player, (remember the reference to a boxing match), will also react.
A domino effect begins and things, including your emotions and words, start to unravel. Sound familiar?
It happens to the best of us.
You need to know your limitations, what you are prepared to accept, what you assign zero tolerance to, your deal breakers and most importantly, how to manage your emotions.
Staying calm in a difficult situation places you in the upper percentile of good leaders.
Set The Stage For Your Performance And Practice
Something as simple as where your conversation is being held, may impact your process and outcome in a big way. you may have a home advantage if the difficult conversation is being held in your office where you are comfortable and in charge. The opposite will be true if it is being held in your fellow player’s environment.
Role analysis and awareness are important tools for improving our communication effectiveness. I always recommend to my clients and audience that they create a staged space to practice their communication. This is more important and relevant when you are preparing to go into a difficult situation.
Ask someone to practice with you or use a mirror if you are on your own. Use the technology that is readily available today such as your cell phone or laptop. Video tape yourself and watch the playback.
- What is your voice like?
- Are you using effective intonations?
- What are your facial expressions saying?
- Are you making your points calmly but convincingly?
- Can you influence the outcome that you are seeking?
- Is your body language communicating what you want it to?
You cannot practice too much to prepare yourself for a difficult discussion or situation. However, you would be selling yourself short if you do not take advantage of the time that you have available to you to strengthen your effectiveness.
Make Sure That Your State Of Mind Is Receptive
When you take time to understand the important role that your mind plays and how your thinking and language affect your behaviour, you will begin to place more emphasis on protecting and managing your state of mind and your well-being. Your mind can enable you. It is where action begins.
If your mind is crowded, preoccupied, distracted or stressed, that negativity will funnel into your words, actions and outcome. You will not achieve anything positive with a negative mindset, in the same way that a banana will not give you apple juice.
Rest is an important element here. When you are preparing for a difficult situation or conversation, make sure that you are well rested. A lack of sleep and or being dehydrated drains the mind and body of much-needed energy and clarity. If you feel weak or your mind is not at ease, postpone if you can and get yourself physically and mentally in a good place to work through the issues.
There is a preferred energy for managing tough times and difficult situations. You need to ensure that you have the strength and that you are attentive and fit for the situation. If you are not, you will be starting at the finish line and taking away any fair chance of enjoying a positive outcome.
Good Leaders Are Courageous
Do you remember this saying:
Dr. Susan Jeffer’s 2007 book of the same title, changed many lives by helping people to learn how to face fear of the unknown and push through the fear you may feel to achieve an outcome that is positive and healthy. The answer is simple.
You move and take one step at a time. That step could be little or large but the critical thing here is that you must act
Pushing through fear requires courage and like anything else that is new, it becomes easier the more often that you do it. Over time, as you work through more difficult conversations’ and situations, you will begin to better understand how you perform in that setting and what you need to do to become better.
Pay close attention to how your behaviour is impacting and the results that you are obtaining.
Good leaders are recognised for how they handle situations and difficult ones can earn them much more credibility, respect and recognition by their peers and followers. You will also feel more confident knowing that you are admired and sought after to be involved and to help others.
After all, isn’t that the objective of a good leader?
Do you want to become a good leader and more confident in managing difficult situations?
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