Diffusing the Most Difficult Conversations with Emotional Intelligence
Difficult conversations are an integral part of everyone’s journey – whether you are a leader, an employee or in a relationship. However, many of us might have an exception to handling such conversations.
Few months ago, that I discovered this happening with one of my clients, as well. He told me that he faced a lot of discomforts in speaking to people with whom he’d usually disagree on issues. He admitted that in most of the cases, he preferred to simply avoid the conversation – anticipating reactions that could be unpleasant. He even admitted about his pre-conceived notions or assumptions that the other person will relentlessly disagree on everything he would tell. Sometimes, he even thought that the other person wasn’t capable enough to understand his views.
Interestingly, through a series of interventions, we were able to uncover that it was his own lack of confidence leading to lack of assertiveness that led him avoid critical conversations. It was a complete turn of events for him and his perceptions changed.
So, whether it is about delivering a critical feedback to a direct report or it pertains to apprising the CEO about an untoward escalation in a crucial project, a Manager simply cannot escape the damper. We all are consistently faced by the tough situations erupting out of a difficult conversation, the consequences of not having a smooth conversation can cost them high. The conflicts that might arise out of those conversations can often result into extremes of job loss and productivity downfall, or lost visibility– on either of ends. However, if handling difficult conversations is so inevitable, why do so many leaders dwindle?
Why Do Leaders End Up in Extremes in A Difficult Conversation?
If given a choice, we all would like to spend our maximum time with people who think alike. However, at a deeper level, world is full of people who come from different cultures, holding different values, views and beliefs. Your every action will be perceived differently – influenced by assumptions of others as well as you own– even if your intent or behaviour was technically correct.
For you, as a leader, what matters most is how you build a rapport with people while taking into account their differences, and still remaining empathetic.
Extremes such as loss of impulse control or abstinence from conversation will likely happen if you try to communicate through a survival or threat mode – when you try to play safe. If you do that, you might end up banging your head against the wall – because either you would not understand the other person or the other person would not understand you.
Brené Brown, a bestselling author and Research Professor says that the only way to rise strong from adversity is to “reckon” with emotions. “When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us,” she states.
Negative emotions need to be channelized so that they induce analytical thinking and focus. However, these emotions, when erupted during a conflict, can manifest in the form of criticism and fault-finding. When you learn to focus on positive emotions – you head towards creativity, vision and growth. The solution lies in striking a balance. How? Read on.
How to Get Comfortable with Uncomfortable Conversations
Be Self Aware and Self-Regulated:
Research suggests that even though many people feel they are aware of their default tendencies, behaviours, achievements and qualities, very few are actually aware. Your solution begins with learning to work with people who are not self-aware by looking at the problem from a wider perspective. Also, the continuous self-conversation that goes on within you, self-chatter I call it, teaches you to be self-regulated. By regulating your own emotions and behaviour – you learn to come across as more poised, appreciated and emotionally intelligent leader. Leaders who master to control reactions that driven by their own feelings and emotions attract sustainability and resilience. Your conversations are driven by the same self-regulation.
Rise Above your Individual Disliking:
Before you decide to shy away from a conversation that smells of a negative consequence or you rather, loose your cool and jump to shout out, ask yourself that how willing are you to really understand the story of the other person. Or you simply want to retaliate? When you open up to understanding, you transmit a positive energy.
Learn to Listen:
Listening helps to diffuse any conflict or any tough conversation. When we are influenced by negative emotions, we tend to shut our listening sense. But any conversation that sees both the sides listening to each other can streamline the flow of communication.
Build Courage to Speak:
This is about moving out of your comfort zone and preparing yourself to face it. Despite the fact that you are too wary or cautious of conflicts, you decide to show courage to solve it by talking. Your determination will give direction to your conversation.
Stop Taking it Personally:
This is one of the biggest virtues leaders need to cultivate within themselves. Whether you are communicating with your seniors or your direct reports, any feedback that hints at personal attacks must be interpreted with a panoramic view. It is a natural tendency for humans to relate everything to their personal selves. This may erupt untoward reactions in a conversation.
A leader would rarely have a choice to make when it comes to handling people from different cultural, economic and social backgrounds. You will always have to remember that each person at your workplace is unique. Successful leaders know how to view the same situation from different perspectives and interpret them. They prepare and carry on with their conversations right in accordance with the other person’s individual values and preferences.