Working to understand what the other person is really saying is particularly important because when someone says “You intended to hurt me” that isn’t quite what they mean. Ollie was frustrated that Thelma was frustrated. No matter how many times you explain to your son how worried you are when he doesn’t call, he may not call. Why? Rather than share her feelings, Emma provokes an argument about the rules of professional communication. C OACH : Brilliant! We mean not only that you caused this, but that you did something bad and should be punished. In any given situation our feelings follow our thoughts. Don’t measure the success of the conversation by whether or not they get upset. . Rather than acknowledging his contribution, Miguel may be tempted to deflect attention from it, and the easiest way to do that is to point out Sydney’s part in the problem. Even if you disagree on the substance of the dispute, you’ve had the chance to express how upsetting, sad, and worrisome the conflict is for you, and to gain a deeper understanding of why your brother sees it as he does. . Leo: Well, I’m certainly not doing it on purpose. In this case, you may be right and your friend may be wrong, but merely being right doesn’t do you much good. And such feelings may take time and thought on everyone’s part to work through. Build a more complex self-image to maintain my balance better. Jack: Yes, and also tell me why. Ask What Standards Should Apply Generally the best way to manage conflict in a way that safeguards a relationship is to look for standards or fair principles to guide a resolution, rather than trying to haggle with or intimidate the other person. To remain authentic in the conversation she needs first to be honest about what she is thinking and feeling: “I’m glad you trust me enough to tell me this, and I really want to listen. And that’s an opportunity too good to pass up. As you sort out your feelings or identify your contribution to a situation it may become clear that what’s called for is not a conversation about the interaction, but a change in your behavior. I hope we can keep talking about what this means to each of us as I begin to pursue this.” Stacy was able to assert herself without invalidating the power and importance of her mother’s concerns. “What if I’m not ready?” she worried. Obviously, this form of connecting — fighting to show love — has limitations. Being open to persuasion is a powerful stance to have. . He might say, “It sounds like you’re pretty unhappy with how I handle the dishes. In teaching this exercise with us, Dick, Rick, Sallyann Roth, Jody Scheier, and their associates from the Family Institute have taught us about family dynamics, influence, common reasons people get “stuck,” and how to care for people in pain. At some level I know that’s unfair to you, and I need you to help me put things in better perspective. I genuinely felt that the graph was fine the way it was. ISBN 0-670-88339-5 (hc.) The question is what to do instead. Express the Full Spectrum of Your Feelings 103 3. If You Still Can’t Agree, Consider Your Alternatives Not every conflict can be resolved by mutual agreement. . Our listening ability often increases remarkably once we have expressed our own strong feelings. Are you going to redo it? The Costs of the Blame Frame There are situations in which focusing on blame is not only important, but essential. He first needed to change his contribution to the problem. . (“If you would just try a new mattress, you’d see how much more comfortable it is!”) If the other person is naive, we try to educate them about how life really is, and if they are being selfish or manipulative, we may try to be forthright and call them on it. Jack: Listen, Michael, say what you will, but the problem on that financial brochure was that after all the work I did, you treated me badly, and you know it! Brian: That was what I said. Michael: Well, what’s your answer to that question? Michael and Jack, the friends arguing over the brochure in Chapter 1, will need to find ways to repair their friendship, and explore whether and how to work together in the future. The two hardest (and most important) communication tasks in difficult conversations are expressing feelings and listening. If you are sometimes lonely or despondent and never share this with those close to you, then you deny them the chance to come to know a part of you. The VP of Commodity Corp. championed the decision to build a new manufacturing plant as a way to increase profits. A better approach is to make the subject clear and discussable by stating your thoughts straight out, while also indicating, honestly, that you are interested in whether the other person sees the situation 194 Create a Learning Conversation differently and, if so, how: “Based on what I know, it seems to me that you might have gotten more done. Understand Emotions. . Consider the openings we looked at earlier, and how they might sound if begun from the Third Story: Stepping out of your story doesn’t mean giving up your point of view. Because attached to each expression of feelings is a set of invisible questions: “Are my feelings okay?” “Do you understand them?” “Do you care about them?” “Do you care about me?” These questions are important, and we have trouble moving on in the conversation until we know the answers. This frame gives the other side total control — until and unless they are satisfied, you must continue to struggle. This Conflict Is Not Who I Am. Others think it happens only when the conditions are right — after contrition has been shown, after you’ve found a new relationship, or after you’ve been forgiven. After I drop everything, break a dinner date with my wife, and stay up all night, that’s the thanks I get?! They are more likely to change if they feel free not to. The Identity Conversation Challenge: The situation threatens our identity. Am I worthy of love? In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. From the outside, Tony is watching a game on TV. Even if we don’t share our view with them, the impact remains. ISBN 0 14 02.8852 X (pbk.) The anger, though she kept it hidden even from herself, was getting in the way. Even so, as you reflect on your own most pressing entanglement, you are baffled: “In this particular situation, I just don’t see how I have any contribution.” Spotting your own contribution becomes easier with practice. This isn’t because we’re dumb, but because recognizing feelings is challenging. But when I began sorting through my Identity Conversation, I started seeing the ways in which I was keeping control of this part of the kids’ lives — perhaps because of my ambivalence about working full-time. Finally, Maggie Payette and Francesca Belanger, our designers, have done a great job of making the cover and text distinctive, accessible, and beautiful. It’s the only day he had available. Get also Books,Self-Help,Relationships books in EPUB and Mobi Format. If only I were smarter, this wouldn’t be so hard for me.” The truth is, there is no “right choice.” There is no way to know in advance how things will really turn out. Title. . Of course, no matter how skillfully you handle things, you are likely to encounter some defensiveness. When she considered the situation from his point of view, when she asked herself what his intentions might have been, when she focused not on blame but on what each of them had contributed, her portrait of the situation became more complex, as did her feelings. The problem is that when feelings are at the heart of what’s going on, they are the business at hand and ignoring them is nearly impossible. It’s no wonder that blame is such a loaded issue, and that we are quick to defend ourselves when we sense its approach. If they aren’t getting how important something is to you and you don’t flag it, then you are letting yourself down. And still, when I think of telling my boss, I’m terrified. And that prospect terrifies him. Upon reflection, Caroline explained: I suppose it has to do with growing up during the Depression. Ask Yourself What’s at Stake 127 Other times, making the Identity Conversation explicit can help you get directly to the heart of what is going on: “What I’m sensing this is all about is whether I’m a good spouse or not. . Studies show that while few people are good at detecting factual lies, most of us can determine when someone is distorting, manufacturing, or withholding an emotion. Can you say more about that? But don’t be fooled into thinking that your original depiction — the story that casts the other person as the villain, for example — is any more genuine than other roles you can find for them. And we will still face emotionally charged situations that feel threatening because they put important aspects of our identity at risk. Toby’s mother had alcohol problems that escalated over the course of his childhood. The Rewards Are Worth the Effort Of course, changing how you deal with difficult conversations takes work. Before we talked I was pretty angry. PEOPLE This would be true even if Jason began with more tact, offering something like, “Jill we need to talk about your problem with getting the dishes done.” Tact or not, it’s still his story. But none is enough. C OACH : You’re doing a great job. You think your boss isn’t giving you enough responsibility. . But discomfort and awkwardness are not limited to topics on the editorial page. You are thinking, “This memo shows incredible creativity, and at the same time is so badly organized that it makes me crazy.” In your attempt to be clear, you say, “Your memo is so badly organized it makes me crazy,” or worse, “Your memo makes me crazy.” You can avoid oversimplifying by using the Me-Me And. That would be a shame, because you’ll lose the opportunity to understand why communication between you isn’t working well, and how it might be improved. . Audrey assumed Jocie was worried about being abandoned herself, and she explained to Jocie that “I would never run away and leave you by yourself.” But it turned out that that wasn’t what Jocie was worried about at all. How Do I Know I’ve Made the Right Choice? Give me a call as soon as you get in. Unappreciated. Something falls through the cracks, and then you are even more annoyed and worried the next time you are preparing, since you’re no longer sure you can trust your assistant to help you. What do they think we are contributing to the problem? But before we get to that, let’s look at what Jack and Michael’s conversation can teach us about how difficult conversations work. Your awareness of and ability to express emotions will vary depending on whether you are with your mother, your best friend, your boss, or the person sitting next to you on the plane. Instead, invite an exploration of whether a raise is fair, whether it makes sense. But Jack won’t know they’re different unless he first considers what rules underlie his own story about what happened. . Contribution asks: “What did I do that helped cause the situation?” You can find contribution even in situations where you carry no blame; you did contribute to being mugged. This illustrates an important rule about inquiry: If you don’t have a question, don’t ask a question. Consultants specialize in addressing disputes where important values are at stake and emotions run high. .” It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or reasonable or rational. Disentangle Intent from Impact 45 Leo: The way I treated you? . The difference is that an invitation can be declined without penalty. Four liberating assumptions are presented below. Given the stakes, however, you can’t afford to level an accusation based on tenuous data. In the meantime, he was supporting himself with odd jobs, and had never asked for a penny from his mother. One evening, they agreed to meet at 7:00 the next morning in the hotel lobby to finish preparing a presentation. You don’t have to be an impartial third party to begin from the Third Story. When it comes to understanding our own emotions, where most of us are is lost. The eating, the exercise. For others, it comes as important news. So you should now feel fine, and if you don’t, that’s your problem.” We Don’t Hear What They Are Really Trying to Say The problem with focusing only on clarifying our intentions is that we end up missing significant pieces of what the other person is trying to say. . Genres: "Business, Communication, Language, Leadership, Nonfiction, Personal Development, Psychology, Self … But it’s also possible that she’ll engage: “You know what, I more or less agree with you. Before you can figure out how to move forward, you need to understand where you are. Why? Years later, even a moderately priced meal can feel like an extravagance to Caroline when filtered through the images and feelings of this experience. Meanwhile, there’s plenty that Michael is thinking and feeling but not saying. Even so, Ben isn’t getting any sleep. It is a way of doing neither and doing both. For example, Max experiences a deep sense of both sadness and joy when he thinks of the event — sadness because he will be receiving less of Julie’s attention from now on, and joy because she has matured into such a wonderful woman. . I don’t know where to begin. What impact will it have on my future? Consider again Jamila’s situation with her husband. It’s just not fair. Acknowledgment is a step that simply cannot be skipped. Can you say more about that?” Make It Safe for Them Not to Answer Sometimes even the most skillful question provokes defensiveness. About each of those things, you are right. This simple assumption causes endless grief. Thinking that you shouldn’t feel as you do will rarely change the fact that you do. In fact, the And Stance is probably the most powerful place to stand when engaging in a difficult conversation that requires you to deliver or enforce bad news. Try to unravel how the two of you got to this place. If you can’t admit to yourself that you sometimes make mistakes, you’ll find it more difficult to understand and accept the legitimate aspects of the other person’s story about what is going on. The best thing you can do for the conversation is to listen from a stance of real curiosity, to ask questions, and to pay special attention to the feelings behind the words. Mom: [choked up] You don’t realize . Where he had originally seen only one emotion, Brad was able to find an entire spectrum of emotions. Jack knows he should talk to Michael, but about what? Think back to the Introduction, where we discussed the dilemma of whether to engage in a conversation or to try to avoid it. I’m thirsty; you’re a poet. A 114 The Identity Conversation difficult conversation can cause you to relinquish a cherished aspect of how you see yourself. 38 Embrace Both Stories: Adopt the “And Stance” 39 Two Exceptions That Aren’t 40 I Really Am Right 41 Giving Bad News 42 To Move Forward, First Understand Where You Are 43 3. I feel stuck. “I felt so betrayed,” says Emma. . He explains: “Late one afternoon I got a call from Michael, a good friend and occasional client. There’s plenty you can do to help yourself down that road. . You try to negotiate your way to curiosity, but you just can’t get there. It seems like that would be a good thing for us to talk about. We attempt or avoid difficult conversations every day-whether dealing with an underperforming employee, disagreeing with a spouse, or negotiating with a client. The primary peril of all-or-nothing thinking is that it leaves our identity extremely unstable, making us hypersensitive to feedback. 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