Crowning Communications
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 to taking the “Difficult” out of Difficult Conversations.

“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.
Apr 172017

One evening in February this year I found myself unexpectedly watching the famous Placido Domingo perform live in the State Opera House in Vienna, Austria. To my surprise I had manifested a ticket to a sold out Romeo and Juliet Opera in this romantic corner of the world. It was quite the experience!

What actually brought me to Europe was a global client I have been working with over the past few months.  I was asked to design and deliver a training program for a global team with communication and intercultural challenges. With parts of the team in Portland, The Netherlands and Czech Republic, I delivered the training in both English and Dutch.

Challenges for Virtual Teams

What I found out while working with these teams is that some of the challenges of any virtual team are language and tone, cultural differences and time zones.

With the American team we’ve identified challenges such as the seemingly slow decision making process of the Dutch team, which is based on a historical model of consensus. The straightforward language and time zone barriers with the teams in Europe were a concern as well for this global team with English as the operating language.

Knowing both the Dutch and American culture well, I could help the Dutch understand how to communicate with more consideration for cultural context, less direct, with a little more diplomacy if they wanted to get anything done by the American team. Sugarcoating is not the strongest skill for the Dutch!

For the Czech team the topic of creating trust and rapport was important and we’ve explored these topics in depth together.

I found that the top three challenges for virtual teams are:

  1. Too much reliance on email without using other tools to connect;
  2. Absence of collegiality;
  3. Challenging to manage conflict in virtual teams across cultures.

Next time I would love to share in detail with you my 3 key tips for working successfully, minimizing conflict and improving intercultural understanding with other team members in different locations, either locally or globally.

Creating Engaged Virtual Teams

As a result of this work I have added the 1-day workshop “Creating Engaged Virtual Teams” to my services. Contact me when your virtual team is ready to create a more inspired, engaged and effective experience.

Jun 202016

Fine, whatever.

Click here to listen to the Podcast: “The Workplace Problem Nobody Will Talk About”


Whether it’s the office note-leaver or the backhanded compliment master, everyone has witnessed passive aggressive behavior in the workplace.

But why does it happen? And what can we do about it?

In a talk with Brandon Laws of Xenium HR, I go over some of these issues with regards to passive aggressive behavior in the workplace.

In the Podcast, we discuss how to spot it, why it happens and how it can impact the workplace. Finally, we go over some ways you can manage your passive aggressive employees to create a more positive workplace.

May 052016

Enjoy this Webinar! If you like what you’ve learned, please share with others!

Mar 292016

It is the nasty note about the shared refrigerator that is dirty… Or that one report your colleague keeps “forgetting” to finish for you or the “yes” or “no” answers to an open-ended question. The behaviors of a passive aggressive are killing the joy in the workplace.

I used to work with a woman who was a skillfully passive aggressive. I often asked myself: “What am I doing wrong?” when she gave me the silent treatment or made rude comments “under her breath.” I felt like I was walking on eggshells all day, and I probably was doing something wrong. Sounds like a familiar struggle?

What am I doing wrong?

In order to know what we are doing “wrong” it is important to understand passive aggressive behavior.  The bottom line is that passive aggressiveness is easier to resort to than assertive behavior. Passive aggressive people don’t typically have the courage to speak up. The message that they are sending with their often non-verbal aggression is: “I am afraid of your response, when I respond to what you say, because your response might hurt me.” Passive aggressive people know very well how to drive others away, because the truth sometimes hurts too much to face it. They are simply protecting themselves.

Actually, there is no foundation for truth in the relationship with a passive aggressive, because it lacks authenticity. As a result there is no trust, no respect, no relationship, which is often the safest and, unfortunately, most lonely place to be for a passive aggressive.

How can we help a passive aggressive person come out of their protective shell and start building a relationship based on trust and respect?

Once you’ve noticed a pattern of passive aggressive behavior with someone, you want to avoid doing something “wrong.” This doesn’t mean that you are responsible for their behavior that often comes from old hurt.

It means that, with some effort, we can avoid being the trigger for their behavior by for example constantly confronting them about their behavior, wanting to rescue or coach them, provoking conflict, or making them openly ridiculous for their “nobody understands me anyway” attitude.

Evaluate your own behavior in the situation

“How did I contribute to the conflict or what actions did I take to escalate the passive aggressive responses?”

Once you realize that your passive aggressive colleague doesn’t feel listened to or think they don’t have a voice, you can solicit their input by speaking directly with them. Be honest, direct, listen and focus the conversation on the real issue. Let them know that you are there to listen and that you want to understand them.  Stay calm in the conversation, take ownership for your feelings and most importantly, don’t reciprocate the passive aggressive behaviors by storming off. Stay in the dialogue!

Although you can’t change a person and it is not your role to heal the fear and past hurt that a passive aggressive is carrying, dealing with a passive aggressive person in a constructive way is possible. It takes time, patience and consistently demonstrating constructive behavior in challenging situations.