An Easy-peasy formula for difficult conversations

What’s this about?
One thing we are all going to encounter in our work and home lives are difficult conversations. This might be with a dissatisfied team member or client, or with our spouse. If you hate conflict or confrontation, your instinct may be to run and hide.
So why should I bother reading this?
We know that to have influence at work as leaders or managers, we need to be able to own these conversations and prevent the issues from festering. We need to be able to manage other people’s emotions as well as our own and tackle the issues that our central to our work and effectiveness. And in our personal relationships, we probably know that if we repeatedly avoid having the tough conversations, at least one party will end up repressed or frustrated. Finding a good way to have the toughest conversations with your own partner is like relationship insurance – it means that your relationship will continue to grow as you both do.
And how do I go about this?
How can we have these conversations without causing arguments, tension and all the other things we may dislike about confrontation? If the other party is visibly agitated, how do we diffuse the situation and move towards constructive outcomes?
This ‘Empathise Clarify Propose Check – ECPC’  (say it out loud) tool I am about to set out is a favourite with clients and one they often request details for after sessions. It also works well with my husband – a real bonus!
EMPATHISE ‘I appreciate that you are feeling ‘let down’ right now’.
Empathy is a critical skill in de-escalating emotion. Try to use their own words so that they feel listened to. Acknowledge their concern, listen to the underlying emotion as well as to what they say. Treat every concern as important.
CLARIFY ‘Can I just clarify, is it the fact that I delivered this later than we had agreed which has upset you?’
Get the full picture – find out what has caused the problem. Questioning gives you time to think as well as deepening understanding and gathering additional information. The use of open questions will start dialogue
PROPOSE ‘How about / what if next time…I let you know if I think the team has insufficient time to deliver, and give you an update either way 3 days before the due date?’
Suggest a possible way forward. Explore options – suggest possible next steps. Make sure your suggestion is achievable, be flexible.
CHECK ‘Do you feel that we have addressed the issue?’
Check that they agree that this is the best way forward. Ask for their response, has it addressed their actual concerns? Listen carefully again, confirm next steps.

Easy peasy right?

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