Saturday, January 29, 2011

Crucial Conversations: ways to pre-vent for productive engagement

Do you know how to have a good productive conversation? If everything is skills based, there are skills, it seems, here too. After all, have you ever had someone say something to you - live or virtually - that just set you off? was condescending, presumptuous, otherwise inappropriate, AND you had to follow up with this person for some shared purpose - work or otherwise - and how HOW were you going to get around this slight, their stupidity and focus on the real heart of the matter, when all you want to do is focus on the noise?

If you are at all like me, for instance, you'd like the convo to be about them recognizing the horrible error of their ways, their failure to recognize my true value and worth, celebrate it fully and to prove that they will stop being such inferior gits - at least in their interactions with me. And that of course is before the real matter of the conversation (yes, i'd like the vegetarian option, thank you) gets under way.

OOO. The noise around some conversations - it's so fraught with the subtle subverting agendas of the mediocre - sometimes - or the very ocre who have their own stuff. We all have our own stuff. We of course do not use it as a bludgeon in any of our dealings.

Skills and Practice for Conversations. But lets say that we do occasionally either have to engage with folks whose discourse style triggers us and where we fear we may lose it and not stay on the true mission of why we need to have a Crucial Conversation with them.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are HighTHis how to get on track and stay on track is the subject of a jointly authored book and web site and consulting service called Crucial Conversations. In my world i did the audio book version of the text.

It's worth checking out - it's certainly an easy, fast and very reasonable listen to a suite of techniques that are clear to practice - especially when one learns to make the time to plan for a crucial conversation.

Fact from Personal Fiction: the safe place to begin. One of the key techniques i like from the text, and probably use the most, is to separate out and start with facts rather than our personal stories about the facts. I like this because i know i take data from a previous email of conversation and can so easily make a villain of  the other by selective reading. As a challenge, i'll now ask myself to invent the most positive story by way of contrast. Sometimes there's still an issue - the person is still a douche and at some point, that may actually become a show stopper  - or another Crucial Conversation.

But until then: is the Crucial Conversation actually to be about that person's style, or can it be about the Matter at Hand? Indeed, there are heuristics too, in the book, to help figure out what the right conversation is for the Crucial Conversation. And if it is to be about the Matter in Hand, what strategies can we use to help us get there? And sometimes, just as important, stay there? Hence, starting with facts about the matter at hand.

The advantage of starting from facts is that it's easy to check in with the other person to see if this is what they think the conversation is supposed to be about too: yes we want to meet about a project deliverable; yes we agree we need to hire new staff and yes we agree they need to start in a week; we need to figure out the best skill set, and the question does seem to be between X or Y being primary.

Other Strategies. The above is just one of my oft practiced strategies. I like it because it helps me stay away from overly personalizing stuff - even when things can feel very personal. It also helps me try to stay more respectful: if we can stay on task, then i can better stay open to the disussion rather than rolling back to my particular story or stories about the person or people invovled. There's an overview article of some of the strategies here called Crucial Conversations: where are you stuck? - for more.

Related Strategies. I find CC to be pretty synergistic with a few other practices i've overviewed before. One is the Sedona Method that is, i find, a practice of being able to get some distance from one'self to identify whether what i'm doing is what i want to be doing, or what i'm reacting to some sense of needing to do (that first overview is called "getting rid of crap around goals").

How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or LessThe other place CC seems to fit in is the wee book How to Make anyone Like You in 90 seconds or less. It sounds so corny and manipulative, but really it's about being able to put oneself in a position to hear an Other and engage with an Other. For a total myers-briggs introvert like myself, this is a goldmine of skills.

THe overview article, for more detail, is here.

I'd also suggest CC fits in with some motivation/coaching work quite well too.

All the best in your Crucial Conversation Practice.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I've always loved Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People."


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