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What are the four stages of complex conversations?

Why do I struggle to have difficult conversations?

If you’re asking yourself why you are struggling to have difficult conversations at work, the answer might be as simple as the relationship is already strained, lack of confidence in your communication skills, or even a fear of conflict.  It’s important to remember that the discomfort you feel in approaching challenging situations is only temporary but the consequences of avoiding the conversation altogether may be lasting.  

If you approach the conversation with the goal of coming to a mutually agreeable resolution, listen actively, openly, and with empathy so that you can hear their side as well and have a few phrases for difficult conversations in your back pocket, you’ll soon be walking into these situations with confidence.  We’d like to help you prepare by offering some techniques for managing these challenging conversations.

How to get the courage to have a difficult conversation?

Discomfort is to be expected when it comes to having a difficult conversation. It’s intimidating to approach someone who you may already be in a strained relationship with.  However, building confidence is as simple as preparation.  If you are able to define your purpose, come prepared with facts and data, choose a good time and place, stay focused on the topic of discussion while maintaining self-awareness and always remember to listen actively so the person feels heard and valued, chances are your conversation will go better than expected.  Practicing difficult conversations in various role play scenarios with a trusted friend or colleague will help you learn to identify ways you can improve your communication skills, gain confidence and clarify your goal, which is to essentially do two things: bring resolution to a situation and build a better relationship.

What is the 4 step process to build a great conversation?

When you purchase a piece of furniture that needs to be put together, clear instructions help you put all the pieces in the right place.  The same is true with effective communication.  They are the building blocks with which solid relationships are built and where engaging and meaningful interactions begin. This four-step process will give you the tools you need to put everything in its place, ensuring a great conversation is had, even if it might be difficult!

  1. Be intentional.  Go into this conversation with a clearly defined purpose and a goal you’d like to achieve.
  2. Listen actively and empathetically.  While you give the other person your full attention, you’ll want to put yourself in their shoes to truly understand how they feel.  This will not only help them to feel valued but also that you are a person to be trusted.
  3. Ask engaging and open-ended questions.  In order to engage the other person in a conversation, you’ll want to ask questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no”.  You’ll likely learn a lot more about the person on the other side of the table and open the lines of communication that will help you in the future.
  4. Summarize and close.  Repeat the things you both are committing to, consider a follow-up if necessary, and close with gratitude.  Thank the person for being open, honest, and willing to talk with you.

Effective communication will help build trust, strengthen relationships, and help you gain confidence during potentially stressful situations.  Keep in mind that the people on either side of the table are human.  We all have feelings and emotions that we would like to have validated.  However, more importantly are the facts behind the necessity of the conversation itself.  Facts are only one facet of complex conversations so let’s move on to the four stages of complex conversations in communication.

What are the four stages of complex conversations?

A well-thought-out conversation should include four different stages: Preparation, Opening and Clarification, Exploration and Resolution, Closing, and Follow-Up. The preparation is all on you.  This is when you’ll want to identify a clear purpose, reflect on your own thoughts, gather information, and set the meeting.  Next, you’ll open the conversation by clarifying the reason behind the meeting. Be sure you enter with a positive attitude, encouraging words, and the intention of coming together to find a resolution.  While in the midst of the conversation, you’ll be exploring each other’s perspectives, listening openly and empathically, and implying problem-solving techniques and possible solutions.  It’s important to keep your emotions in check in this phase.  In the closing and follow-up, you’ll summarize what you’ve discussed, come up with some measurable goals, and set-up an action plan that leaves the door open for further communication as necessary. 


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