It’s the moment of truth. You can’t put it off any longer. The time has come for a difficult conversation with your colleague. You must express serious concerns about their actions or disagreement with them. You worry it will spark defensiveness or do damage to the relationship — and with good reason! It’s become uncomfortably heated when you’ve tried to have this kind of conversation in the past.

Faced with the possibility that another crucial conversation may go poorly, you wonder:

How can I avoid another communication breakdown?
How can I get my concerns heard without triggering defensiveness?

The answer to these questions is shift! Shift away from automatic or habitual responses to new, more deliberate ways of thinking and acting. In a subsequent blog series, I’ll describe six shifts that can transform your next difficult conversation from a breakdown to a breakthrough:

Shift 1: From preoccupied to purposeful. Being purposeful is how we bring our clearest intention and fullest presence to every difficult conversation.

Shift 2: From cryptic to candid. Candor moves us from inauthentic politeness and avoidance toward greater honesty and directness.

Shift 3: From impact to intent. Explicitly distinguishing between another persons intention and their impact helps us to avoid one of the most common sources of misunderstanding and conflict escalation.

Shift 4: From rigged questions to real inquiry. By staying curious we foster mutual understanding which is the foundation for achieving common ground solutions.

Shift 5: From shifting blame to shared contribution. A collaborative approach enables us to look systemically at the problem and its root causes rather than taking the easy route of pointing fingers.

Shift 6: From being right to being kind. Being kind may be the most challenging shift of all. It involves prioritizing empathy over ego.

The great thing about these six shifts is that you are completely in charge of making them happen. They don’t rely on anyone else. So, get ready to stop operating on “automatic” and instead, shift!

In May 2020, I’m co-teaching a 3-day seminar entitled Critical Conversations for the Authentic Leader. For more details on the program and the awesome co-instructors, check out 1440 Multiversity.

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