The art of the tough conversation

The Art of the Tough Conversation: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on the art of the tough conversation. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on this topic.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is a special edition celebrating our new book for kids, Glowstone Peak. We welcome contributions related to courage (in conflict or in other situations), influence, and hope. You also have a special opportunity to submit a 30-second video offering advice to children. We’ll create a montage on these themes!

New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts and videos here!

The Art of the Tough Conversation

ditch the diaper drama #WinningWellSophie Blumenthal of Resume Library provides How to Decline a Job Offer.  This piece elaborates on the process of declining a job offer, which can be an awkward conversation. It offers tips and advice to ensure the conversation can be an easy and positive interaction.  Follow Sophie.

Ronni Hendel of InsightOut Leadership gives us “Strong opinions, lightly held,” a shorthand for a way of approaching difficult conversations that open up the possibility of both advocating and inquiring–of being both committed and open.  This is a critical tool in our “difficult conversations” toolkit. Follow Ronni.

Molly Page of Thin Difference offers Improvise Our Way to Common Ground.  Would the world be a better place if we all used a little more, “Yes, and…” in our conversations? Perhaps. Looking to improv techniques can be a great way to navigate a tough conversation and find common ground. Follow Molly.

Silence is one of the great arts of conversation. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC  provides Five Tips for Handling Difficult Conversations at Work Like a Pro.  Difficult conversations are bound to come up in business. Use these tips to master the art of the tough conversation and remain professional, graceful, and respectful during the talk.  Follow Rachel.

LaRae Quy of LaRaeQuy.com gives us Four FBI Tips on How to Handle Awkward Conversations.  When discussions go to hell in a hand basket, they quickly turn into a fight. Psychologists say that our brain is wired for war; our point of view has been attacked if we disagree with someone. Follow LaRae.

Lisa Kohn from Chatsworth Consulting Group provides, How to Handle the Elephant in the Middle of the Living Room.  She shares ways to help your team coax out and address the “inconvenient truths” that can get in the way of successful – and enjoyable – relationships, projects, and business outcomes.  Follow Lisa.

A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen wrote, The Power of Simply Saying What You Mean. It can be difficult to start a conversation if the topic is tense, controversial, or otherwise difficult to bring up. Sometimes getting started is as simple as “tell me more about that.”  Follow Paula.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds offers An Argument for Conflict.  What Julie refers to as ‘dysfunctional politeness’ costs organizations dearly in terms of dollars, but it also takes an enormous human toll; disappointment, mistrust, frustration, and disengagement. What’s needed instead is constructive conflict. This post offers three steps for cultivating it. Follow Julie.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives us The Facts Speak for Themselves. Do They? In this post Shelley shares about the sometimes-tough conversations we have to persuade people toward a particular option. Follow these tips for more success.  Follow Shelley.

Effective Communication Karin Hurt and David Dye

The Winning Well I.N.S.P.I.R.E. model for tough conversations.

The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation – or a relationship. – Deborah Tannen

David Grossman of The Grossman Group provides Leadership Communication: Six Steps to Handling Tough Conversations.  It’s a given; having tough conversations and communicating difficult topics is part of a leader’s job. Just like you plan for contingencies in your business, planning how you will communicate difficult messages can improve the ultimate outcome. Think through and prepare your approach in advance with these six steps.  Follow David.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader gives us How to Talk about the Elephant in the Room. The most difficult conversations are the topics no one wants to broach due to fear or convenience. Here’s how to break through to talk about it before it wrecks your organization.  Follow Paul.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership provides Three Secrets of Better Performance Conversations. Here are three ways you can take a lot of the discomfort out of performance conversations and make them more effective.  Follow Wally.

There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees. – Michel de Montaigne

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership provides Seeking Discomfort: 7 Ways to Embrace Uncomfortable  Often we find ourselves compelled to give critical feedback to others, but what about receiving it? If we are to grow personally and lead well, we need to seek out feedback that may not be easy to hear.  Feedback Follow Ken.

Nate Regier of Next Element Consulting offers Balance vs. Agility.  Balance is a great goal, but it’s not the end goal. Why? Because change is the constant. Balance is about homeostasis, and homeostasis is fleeting. Follow Nate.

Jackie Stavros of Lawrence Technological University offers How Do Your Conversations Feel?  Conversations are a crucial part of everything we do. How do we turn a tough conversation to a conversation worth having? Conversations worth having uses Appreciative Inquiry to fuel productive and meaningful change that creates an environment that works for all! Follow Jackie.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited provides How to Communicate with Non-Responsive People.  Sometimes the tough part of a conversation is actually getting it started if the person you are trying to reach tends not to be responsive. Here are some tips.  Follow Beth.

Your Turn.

Please feel free to share your favorite links to tough conversation advice in the comments below.

Start A More Meaningful Conversation #meanit

As the “Mean It” Madness continues, I’m delighted to share insights from sincere people around the world who have reached out to share their stories.

Today’s post is inspired by Cat Willliams a relationship counsellor and author of Stay Calm and Content. She shares how meaningful conversations start by telling yourself the truth.

If you have a story of where saying what you mean made all the difference, click here to share.

Start a More Meaningful Conversation

“He that undervalues himself will undervalue others, and he that undervalues others will oppress them.”
~Samuel Johnson

Many conversations break down because the issue being discussed is not the real issue at hand. Even when people are communicating “well” with “I statements” and the like, if the real issue isn’t surfaced, it can’t be addressed. Much energy is spent in such false dialogue. Truths remain unspoken and the undercurrent of resentment continues.

Cat shared that some of the hardest conversations are those in which we must apologize. It’s tough to admit to ourselves that we’ve done something wrong. It’s even more scary to face potential rejection if the apology is not accepted.

It’s far easier to convince ourselves someone else is to blame, and we start with a solid argument to ourselves. We soothe our egos, and our important apologies remain un-offered. As I heard Cat’s story, my heart tugged with a few folks in need of a call.

Leaders who are insecure are more likely to cover up their fears by limiting feedback and placing blame. What appears tough on the outside, may actually a false barricade to protect a fragile ego.

Cat shares a useful metaphor, if we think of ourselves as a car, our engine is our self-esteem. Many people don’t do the necessary maintenance and upkeep that needs to be done on that engine, and instead choose to focus on the engine’s exhaust, or the symptoms that surface in the form of emotions.

To ensure we’re dealing with the true issues, Cat encourages us to take time, and not rush to communicate. Here are several questions that can help you slow down and start a more meaningful conversation.

  1. What am I really upset about here. Is the issue I’m reacting to the real problem, or is something deeper?
  2. How is my confidence involved in this? Is there something I’m unsure or afraid of that’s making me feel insecure. In other words, am I dealing with the “engine” or the exhaust?
  3. How have my interpretations played into the meaning here?,/li>
  4. Are there other possible interpretations or explanations for what’s happening?
  5. What do I really want from this conversation? What is the best possible outcome?
  6. What is the most effective way to communicate my feelings?
  7. How can I listen so I can really hear what the other person is looking to convey? How can I encourage them to say what they really mean?

To hear my interview with Cat Williams:

She also shares additional insights in this video or visit her blog.