Seem familiar?

You notice that once again Pete is not doing his job the way he should. Or, maybe you hear Jane speaking to a colleague in an inappropriate way. Then again, maybe you recognise that Kevin’s attitude is really starting to affect team morale. Whatever the situation, you realise that something needs to be said, and that you are the person responsible for saying it.

Have you ever had to have a ‘difficult’ conversation with a team member or colleague? Chances are that if you haven’t yet, the day will come—especially if you are in a leadership role.

Here is one vital idea to help you raise the odds of success in your challenging conversation: Suspend belief. Set aside your beliefs, assumptions, values, feelings and biases about the situation you are about to deal with.

No matter who we are, we all have a range of those beliefs, assumptions, values, feelings and biases. Your personal perspective will influence the way you approach the conversation. The risk is that your personal perspective can get in the way of your understanding what is really going on. The result can be that you end up making the problem worse, rather than solving it.

You can never completely remove your personal perspective, but you can develop the skill of suspending belief to become a more effective communicator. It’s not easy to do, but with effort and practice you can get better at doing it.

A few suggestions to help you suspend belief...


• Accept that you do have your own beliefs, assumptions and biases about any situation

• Check your own motives:
o why do I need to have this conversation?
o is my intention positive and constructive?
o what value would the conversation provide to the other person, me, the team and my workplace?


• Focus on the facts of the situation

• Think about the situation from the other person’s point of view

• Step back and try to see the situation from an detached perspective

(Some people find it helpful to imagine that they are taking a helicopter or drone perspective, flying above the situation and looking down on the scene.)

Suspending belief can be a challenge, but with effort and practice it can be done—and it does make a difference.

 

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