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Preparing yourself for difficult conversations

TIGNUM Thoughts

November 10th, 2018
By Scott Peltin

Nothing leads to more sleepless nights, more uncontrollable inner dialogue, and more avoidance behaviors than needing to have a difficult, potentially emotional, contentious conversation. When I look at the mindset challenges that our clients ask for help with in coaching, these situations are easily in the top 3. They might even be numbers 1, 2, and 3.

While these conversations are no doubt difficult, they also have the greatest potential for high impact. They are meaningful, they have a lot on the line (relationships, security, outcomes, and even self-image), and for most people, they are no fun. From a TIGNUM perspective, they're actually the perfect opportunity to show up at your best and Rule Your Impact.

When it comes to successfully having these conversations nothing replaces great preparation. Start with a clear picture of what success could look like at the end. This means looking at it from a 3-dimensional view - their view, your view, and your shared view (the relationship, your shared needs, the team, the family, the organization, the customer, etc.). Once you have this, you should set your intentions by focusing on what you can control - you. Three great questions we often use are:

  • _How do you want to be perceived?
  • _What do you want them to know?
  • _How do you want them to feel?

The key to these questions is that they usually put both of you on the same side trying to find common ground rather than on opposing sides bound in conflict. In other words, you both are co-creating the best solution for the situation you are trying to solve.

Armed with great intentions, the next step is to set your optimal performance state. This is the best level of arousal for you to be successful. Try thinking about it on a dial from 1 to 10 where 1 is asleep and 10 is amped up and ready to explode. For most contentious conversations, somewhere from a 3 to a 6 is optimal, but this is your personal dial and something you need to determine. Once you've selected your number, you can simply perform some calm, equal, and tranquil breathing exercises while you visualize yourself in this state.

Next, you'll need to constantly challenge and reframe the dialogue that is going through your mind. So often in these situations, your brain wants to go into defense mode. This creates an inner dialogue about how you are a victim, the other person is a villain, or you are helpless. Your brain creates stories, narratives, and outcomes that are not based in fact and which rarely, if ever, help you perform at your best. The common questions we have our clients ask are, "What if I'm wrong?", "Is this really true?", and "Am I giving this person the benefit of the doubt?"

Finally, don't just prepare your Mindset, support it with the best Recovery, Nutrition, and Movement strategies so that you can show up at your best. Showing up to these conversations sleep deprived, under-recovered, hangry, dehydrated, or in pain are sure ways to limit your impact and your results.

The truth is that as long as you have humans, you will have both conflict and contentious conversations. Preparing yourself to show up with your Performance Mindset is the best way to turn these uncomfortable situations into an opportunity to Rule Your Impact.

As always, I would love to hear what your strategies are for contentious conversations and what you think.

Other Thoughts

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