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10 things I learned about having tough conversations

Lessons learned from reading Crucial Conversations and Fierce Conversations

    1. Questions are key

    Asking questions is the best way to get facts and stories into the open so that they can be discussed.

    2. Understand what your personal contribution was

    What did you do to contribute to the situation? A great question to ask yourself before entering into any tough conversation (reason is that when you identify where you were at fault, the other person may feel more open to admitting their fault)

    3. Beware the stories you tell yourself

    There's facts and then there's stories. Facts are things that everyone can see and repeat. The car was blue. The driver was female. The blue car hit the red car.

    Stories are the conclusions we make based on the facts we understand. The blue car purposefully hit the red car. My husband has a charge on his credit card bill for a motel, therefore he is having an affair.

    4. When having conversations and sharing stories, share your stories as if they are hypotheses

    Your stories aren't the truth - it's only what we have concluded from the facts. The blue car may very well have accidentally hit the red car. Or you two went to a restaurant that was linked to the motel, and rather than charging your card to the restaurant, it was charged to the motel.

    5. It is important to make it safe to have a conversation

    When there's silence or violence, the conversation is not safe.

    6. Imagine that when you're having a conversation, there's a shared pool

    This is the shared pool of meaning and it is important to fill it with as much facts as you can before looking at the stories (you are telling yourself or the other person is telling themselves)

    7. You are likely avoiding a tough conversation in your life

    It may be with a boss or coworker. It could be with a partner. It could be with your kids. It could even be with yourself.

    8. Consider what you want

    We avoid tough conversations because we want to avoid the awkwardness of the conversation, but we should instead focus on what having the tough conversation will bring us.

    9. It takes practice

    Just because you know what questions to ask doesn't mean you are an expert at having tough conversations. You have to do them over and over.

    10. Control your emotions

    How do you control your emotions? This takes experience - before you tell yourself stories or before conversations get heated, consider the facts OR consider how to increase safety in the conversation.

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