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May 152017

“Sometimes I think I’m in a conversation with 6 people, when I am talking with my co-worker” a coaching client said to me the other day. There can be and often are many voices that want to be heard in a difficult conversation between 2 people.

We have as much of the conversation in our head with our own critical voice as with the other person’s critical voice, the voice of the boss, the co-worker’s voice and possibly a bunch more voices, such as those of our parents, siblings and friends.

In the previous blogpost we explored the dynamic of the interactions we have with our inner self, our state of being, thoughts, feelings and awareness (or lack thereof) of the relationship with ourselves. We identified that dynamic as “Self with Self.”

Let’s now have a closer look at the dynamic between us and the other in the challenging interaction: “Self with the Other.”

An excellent communicator continually pays attention to what the other says with words and without words. What each of us does or says in that tough situation is impacting the other. Understanding and awareness of that impact is key to working things out together.

Below I share 5 key aspects of effectively managing “yourself with others” in difficult conversations:

The second dynamic: “Self with other” in your toughest conversation

1.The Power of Acknowledgement

When we acknowledge the other person’s experience by stating out loud what we understand their experience to be, thus we make a much-needed connection with the other in the difficult situation. In an acknowledgment of experiences, the other person feels heard by you, which, in turn, opens the channel for you to be heard as well.

2. Stop “Silverlining”; Use Empathy

Acknowledgment is the gateway to empathy. Empathy is not equal to sympathy. Empathy connects people, while sympathy separates us from the other, because sympathy is a reflection about self and not about the other. (” I am so sorry for you”). We show empathy by expressing deep understanding of what the other person is going through, without “silverlining”  (“At least you’re still working there…”) or judging the other’s experience.

3. Know the roller coaster (of emotions)

When strong emotions come up for the other in the conversation, it is important to be alert and aware of how these emotions trigger us and could make us less resourceful in our responses. How constructive are you with expressing emotions between you and the other? When the other withdraws from the conversation, do you withdraw or get angry?

4. Take down the walls

When we feel defensiveness coming up at what the other is saying, we are no longer listening. We are then caught up in our own response. The other is merely expressing their experience of what is going on. When we become defensive we are actually “leaving” the tough interaction and going “somewhere else.” The result is disconnection and often more conflict. When we experience the other attacking us, however, it may be appropriate, in our own defense, to acknowledge that a boundary was crossed. Assertively stating that this is not how we want to be treated may help the other become aware of their destructive behavior.

5. Postpone judgment by asking questions

Last but not least, I encourage you stay open, postpone your judgment and get in the mode of asking questions, based on genuine curiosity. Only when we put our judgment aside, can we be totally present with the other person and with ourselves. That is genuine attention; a true gift. And it’s just one less voice to deal with.

More Resources for You: 
> WEBINAR: In case you’ve missed it here is the recording of a webinar I conducted last Spring: “Key Strategies for Taking the “Difficult” out of Difficult Conversations.”
> CARD SET: Little Upsides assist you to get to know yourself better in difficult situations with others. A colorful card set with 50 quotes and questions to dig a little deeper and set a constructive tone for your interactions.
May 152017

Entering a difficult conversation is as tricky as being out on the ocean on a sailboat in a thunderstorm. I have done both and avoided both when I could. The unexpected wind changes would make my boat rock and each lightning bolt could send a shock of electricity through the boat that would make my hair stand up straight. That is exactly how it felt for a long time when I had to engage into a tough conversation.

Just like with sailing, I picked up skills over the years to navigate through the difficult conversations in my life, managing the lightning bolts caused by emotions and gaining more courage and new skills to bring the conversation into calmer water.

Will there ever be a moment that tough conversations will be easy? I don’t know. What I do know is that we can keep practicing. Overtime we become more confident, comfortable and skilled at it. It’s a life long learning process and we want to keep practicing.

Three Dynamic Dimensions in Tough Conversations

I have learned that there are 3 dynamic dimensions to a difficult conversation, in which we focus on managing ourselves within ourselves, ourselves with others, and ourselves with the process. The challenge and art is to keep the focus on all three dynamics at the same time when we are going through the waves of a tough conversation.

“Self with self” is where relationship mastery starts. When we are unaware of the impact of our internal judgments, biases, emotions, beliefs and assumptions, we act mindlessly and a difficult conversation will continue to be difficult.

Managing ourselves with mindfulness, self-love, and understanding is impacting how we are showing up in these challenging interactions. Here are 5 key tips about how to show up as your best self in a tough exchange, while keeping an eye on “self with self. ”

1.Establish a mindfulness practice for yourself

This could be meditation, yoga, breathing, nature walks, or any practice that helps you get in touch with what is going on inside of you

2.Know your resources 

When we are thrown off balance by our own emotions such as anger or judgments we need to find a way to get back to our “resourceful” self. What are some of the resources you have available? (E.g. music, journaling, a time out, etc.)

3.Mind your language (your inner chatter)

The ways we talk to ourselves influence our relationship with ourselves and consequently with others. How we “language” our experience is incredibly impactful and meaningful.

4.Self-awareness leads to healthy relationship management

When we know ourselves well, our strengths and limitations, we know how to manage ourselves in difficult situations.

5.Become Present

The moment we start thinking about how we are going to respond to the other, we are no longer present with the other and we stop listening. Instead, listen deeply and trust that you have the best response at your fingertips, when the other person has finished speaking.

More Resources for You: 
> WEBINAR: In case you’ve missed it here is the recording of a webinar I conducted last Spring: “Key Strategies for Taking the “Difficult” out of Difficult Conversations.”
> CARD SET: Little Upsides assist you to get to know yourself better in difficult situations with others. A colorful card set with 50 quotes and questions to dig a little deeper and set a constructive tone for your interactions.
Aug 032015

Do you remember the first few weeks in your new job?

Were you the one asking all the questions? Or did you dive in and give your opinion of how the job supposed to be done? Either way points out our individual strengths and the way we cope and manage tension in a situation.

I remember my first few weeks at my very first HR job in the United States, when everything and everyone was new, I felt insecure about how to do certain things, what certain words meant and was slow and thoughtful at first when making decisions in my new position.

I asked a lot of questions, so much that it drove my co-workers nuts. We regularly ended up in an argument with misunderstandings, irritations, feelings of resentment and angry looks. By asking questions and listening, I learn and analyze new situations, interact with people, solve problems and make decisions.

On the other hand, I’ve also worked with people who tell you what is right or wrong and what to do. They speak in statements and directives. Do you know someone who interacts this way?

Well, that drives me nuts.

The point of this story is that people have different, readily observable, behaviors in the presence of others, which are also called “Social Styles”. Social Styles is a research-based model designed in the 1960’s by Bolton, refined over the past 50 years and still used to understand differences and to uncover the source of interpersonal conflict and strengthen collaboration. This way of looking at human interactions refers to several dimensions in straightforward individual behaviors in the interactions with others.

In my example I shared with you one of these dimensions is the spectrum of asking questions on one end and speaking in statements on the other. This so called Ask/Tell spectrum refers to the degree to which we perceive the other’s behavior as an attempt to influence the thoughts and actions of those around him/her.

The difference between my co-worker and I was, that I was on one end of the Ask/Tell spectrum of taking up space in interactions with others: I asked questions and listened, I gave a lot of space.  My co-worker was on the other side of the spectrum of taking up space in interactions: speaking in statements and directives, and not taking much time to listen, making quick decisions. Either side of the spectrum has its strengths and weaknesses, obviously.

There are 4 distinct Social Styles that we can recognize in our co-workers. Not understanding each other’s Social Style causes conflict in the workplace, without really understanding what pushes our buttons and where the conflict comes from.

Successful are the people who know how to move from one style to the other, depending of whom they are interacting with. They know how to meet their own needs, cope and manage tension in the environment effectively, while building bridges between the different styles.

A better understanding of others’ Social Style and knowing how to adjust to the style of others helps us establish rapport and trust more easily with people who are on the other side of the spectrum. We become effective leaders, communicators and collaborators.

The Ask/Tell spectrum is just a small part of the Social Styles model. Join me for a comprehensive workshop, “Build Bridges, Not Boxes: The Leadership Essentials of Communication and Collaboration” at the end of July to find out what your Social Style is, learn how to recognize other styles and how to move between styles to create stronger work relationships and minimize conflict.

Nov 252014

I had so much fun shooting my very first video during my trip to Italy. Here is the result; let me know what you think!

ARE YOU TRAVELING LIGHT? THE SECRET TO BUILDING DYNAMIC HAPPY RELATIONSHIPS.

 

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