So you know you can take the safe route of keeping your mouth shut, but you really need to help this person understand the reality of the situation. This conversation could upset them or hurt them and put a real damper on your relationship, possibly even turn into a fight. What do you do? Do you just dive in, unfiltered like a bulldozer, running over them in an effort to correct them or set them straight? Or do you swallow your words, avoid the conflict and difficult situation and let it ride out? Um… note to self, neither of these avenues are good for them, or you.
So, how do you do it? It is the art of describing reality of a difficult situation without assigning blame. Do you know how to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone without leaving them feeling defeated? Laying blame is easy to do and difficult to avoid, especially if you tend to be judgmental. But effective communication is all about helping them see that they are not at fault.
Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, quotes a sage observation by author Edwin Friedman:
“In any situation, the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge as the leader, whether designated or not.”
When I first read this, I could see that there were many ways I could improve in my own communication. If you tend to just play it safe, but you want to be able to make a difference in your current outcomes. Here are some tips and examples to help you deliver the message in the way it’s intended.
- Deal with reality in facts, not opinions.
Example: the deadline is tomorrow and we are not going to make it; versus, you are late all the time, now we are going to miss a deadline.
2. Use “and” instead of “but.”
Example: your room looks good and when you put away your shoes it will be perfect; instead of saying, your room looks good, but you should put away your shoes.
3. Speak for yourself when you are focused on what has happened or the outcome of a situation.
Example: our relationship looks like we are on different pages and it feels to me that I’m alone; instead of saying, you are really upsetting me and hurting my feelings because you are gone so much.
4. Slow things down if the conversation starts to spiral or become emotionally charged.
Example: Let’s step back, we are going down the wrong road here. Can we pause for a minute?
These techniques help me so much. I hope that it will be a blessing to you too. Is there someone you need to talk to about something? Don’t play it safe when you could have a strengthened relationship with these powerful communication tactics.