We’ve all been there before. We’ve all needed to have one of these uncomfortable conversations with a team member, or someone else close to us, because certain expectations aren’t being met. These conversations can often cause a rift between two people, and have the potential to cause more harm than good. When done correctly, these conversations can build trust, and help both parties improve and become better in their respective roles.
This is a skill that by no means have I mastered yet. Throughout my career thus far, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of these conversations. Over the years I’ve leaned on a book that my employer introduced me to called “Crucial Confrontations.” This book has helped me immensely at making these conversations more productive and helpful. The authors of this book do a great job of outlining a few simple steps that can help.
One of the principles of the book that has stood out to me is being able to effectively “describe the gap,” because really, that’s why we’re having the conversation in the first place. We’re not there to bully or beat up on anyone. These conversations aren’t our opportunity to finally unleash all of the bottled up frustration we have with that person (if we’re doing it right, we won’t have these pent up frustrations that have been lingering since the Clinton administration). If we approach these conversations as an ally to the person we’re talking with, in the spirit of improving and growing, it will guide the conversation in a positive direction. Our posture and approach in the first 30 seconds will set the tone for the whole conversation with that person.
By “describing the gap,” the authors mean identifying the expectation or standard that you’d like to see, and contrasting that with the current level of performance being delivered, and then collaboratively coming up with solutions to bridge the gap. This book outlines how to effectively go through that process, and is a great resource for anyone who’s regularly having these conversations.
Along these lines, a co-worker of mine recently share this YouTube video, which illustrates the power of replacing BUT with AND. This simple change in vocabulary can have a really big impact in the way you’re interacting with others. Take a look: