Breath of Clarity

Lessons from Difficult Conversations activity

This activity taught me that, in order to successfully conducting a difficult conversation, it is important to keep composure and not let emotions escalate as distractors arise.

What went well?

I did well by setting a calm, relaxed tone at the beginning. The observer noted that my opening statement was effective and particularly enjoyed the phrasing I used when I said my employee’s work amazes me as well along with my genuine smile. It helped build a lot of trust from the beginning. I also directly explained the goal of the meeting and asked for the employee to collaborate with me. The fact that my questions were open-ended also helped the conversation develop. At the same time, the observer noted that I was not concerned with gossip but rather kept the conversation focused on the goal. I also did well in evoking creativity out of my employee when I asked for suggestions about what should be done regarding the complaints. I was also consistently nodding and relaxing my shoulders to help my employee stay calm. I also did well at not interrupting the employee and listening to everything she had to say before I brainstormed my words. Finally, I thanked the employee for the suggestions to emphasize her value. I then came up with a plan of action and scheduled a specific day and time for a follow-up meeting.

What challenges did you face?

It was challenging that, although my outline serves as a great way to process my thoughts before the conversation, even with thorough preparation, I will always still need to adapt. The hardest part for me was having patience while I was figuring out the scenario’s context during the conversation. The additional employee and supervisor in the mix threw me off. I noticed that I was able to detect frustration starting to occur within me but still did not show it on the outside. I did so by focusing on staying calm and honoring the employee as my priorities in the conversation. I also noticed that asking more questions helped clear up any confusion. I learned that, as long as trust is maintained, the employee and manager can successfully get through difficult circumstances together.

What would you do differently next time?

Next time, at the start of the conversation, I would start with bringing a sense of empathy into the conversation before the first distractor comes in so that it is part of the tone from the get go.

Also, I would prepare but have less expectation about where the conversation is actually going to go. It would help me surrender control from the get go of the conversation which would aid in helping me stay calm. I look forward to practicing the skills from this class more in future difficult conversations.