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5 Steps to Rebuild Compromised Relationships at Work and at Home

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How to Engage in CareFrontation or Radical Candor Conversations

communication-wheel-w-refDoes this sound or feel familiar?

  • Ducking for cover when you see THAT person walk down the hallway
  • Found yourself in endless  complaint loops about THAT person to others, which don’t change anything and just reinforce the unpleasantness of the situation
  • Sweaty palms and flushed cheeks when THAT person speaks during meetings
  • Screening phone calls because you just can’t bear talking to THAT person

These typical symptoms for a missing or incomplete Crucial Conversation, a challenging conversation that seems ominous because the stakes are high, opinions differ and emotions are strong. Even though many people avoid challenging conversations at all cost, when done well, they can be a true gift because they allow you to turn an uncomfortable situation into a relationship building opportunity that can improve collaboration and creative thinking.

Here are the 5 steps to address a challenging situation with candor and honesty:

  1. Data: I saw/ I heard/ I noticed … (communicate observable and measurable facts)
    Describe what the situation looks like from your perspective without associating any value judgment. Stick with measurable facts. Avoid generalizations such as “always” and “never”. What is the specific situation that warrants clarification, exploration and a change of action?
    Example: In your email from (date) you agreed to do (x) by (y). Today marks 2 days past the delivery date. I have not received any written notification from you that your team will not be able to deliver as agreed.
  2. Feelings: I feel … (own and communication your current emotional state appropriately and honestly)
    If you are not comfortable naming your feelings, speak directly into your concerns and what seems worrisome in this situation. This step requires the willingness to be vulnerable. If that seems too far outside your comfort zone, you can move directly into step 3.
    Example: I feel angry because I felt I looked incompetent when the client called this morning and I was not able to answer relevant questions without having seen your report.
  3. Judgments/ Meaning Making: I believe … (state a clear interpretation of the consequences from your perspective)
    This step is important because here you offer an insight into your position without creating a defensive response. You explain your interpretation of the consequences of the issue at hand.
    : I believe that this makes the company look incompetent and that our contract may not be renewed.
  4. Wants/ Desired Future: I want … (create a positive future scenario)
    In this step you create a shared objective and establish why it is important to work together.
    Example: I want to be able to rely on a strong team to support the mission of the organization, a healthy work environment, for us to collaborate more, …
  5. Willingness/ Contribution: I am willing to … (action that is likely to improve the situation)
    This step allows you to take ownership of the situation and to communicate your willingness to take action toward positive results.

During any phase of the conversation, the other person may comment and offer a new
perspective. Good questions to ask after presenting the issue are: What can I do to help? What can you and I do to prevent this from happening again? What was your understanding of the situation based on these facts? What information am I missing?

The key is to enter the conversation from a place of genuine concern for the person and the relationship and with real curiosity about what leads the other person to behave  the way he or she does. Preclude the conversation with reassurance of your commitment to set the stage for a positive experience and with the intent to lay the groundwork for positive future interactions. The Communication Wheel will NOT work if your intention is to prove that you are right or that the other person is wrong. Stick with “I” statements and avoid “Why” questions. Be honest and be open to learn something new and you may be pleasantly surprised!


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