|The Art of the Difficult Conversation – Part III of a
Four Part Series
When Dialogue Breaks Down
We concluded Part II of this series last month, by stating that when a dialogue breaks down (“when safety is at risk”), you should step out of the content of the conversation, make it safe, and then step back in. In discussing this issue, a friend raised a question that I have grappled with and perhaps you have faced: “Can you show respect to people you don’t respect?” Patterson et al., in Crucial Conversations point out that in order to treat a person respectfully you do not have to agree with every viewpoint or respect every element of another’s character. The authors suggest that we look for ways that we are similar (not different).
In addition, any judgmental attitude will soften when we recognize that we all have weaknesses. I have found that approach to work very well for me. When I contemplate the times that I have not lived up to my highest standards or hurt somebody’s feelings, regret and deep humility sweep across my heart, making me a compassionate listener. Some good can come from our failings! As an old prayer goes, “Lord, help me forgive those who sin differently than I.”
ACC to Re-Establish Mutual Purpose
Apologize – Take ownership for your part in the breakdown of the dialogue. When you apologize, do it with sincerity. Half-baked apologies only get half-baked results.
Contrast – When the other party misunderstands, explain what you do NOT mean, describe what you DO mean, and restore safety.
Commit – CRIB as described below:
C – Commit to seek a mutual purpose. Without a mutual purpose, there is no sense in further dialogue.
R – Recognize the purpose behind the strategy. The reason we fight over strategies sometimes is that we don’t share with the other person the real purpose behind that strategy. If both parties understand what is important to each other, they are more likely to find a mutually acceptable strategy.
I – Invent a mutual purpose. What do you do when you cannot discover a mutual purpose? Invent one! Look beyond the purposes that divide you to a broader, more encompassing purpose that both parties can agree on.
B – Brainstorm new strategies. Once a purpose is mutually agreed upon, the door is open to brainstorming strategies to reach that goal. Suspend judgment, be open to new approaches to arrive at your desired destination, and focus on quantity of ideas, not their quality. Later, you can put on the critic’s hat, evaluate the ideas, and select the best possible strategies.
Watch out for the conclusion of this series, part IV of “Difficult Conversations,” in the September issue of this E-newsletter.
|Dilip Abayasekara, Ph.D., A.S. | PO Box 405, Enola, PA 17025
Phone: 717.728.2203 | Cell: 717.648.1080 | Fax: 717.728.2296