Navigating Difficult Conversations

September 27, 2016

Difficult Conversations
The PAF cohorts started their academic year and placements with communication and conflict management skills stronger than ever, thanks to a workshop on difficult conversations during the weekly meeting on Tuesday, August 30th, expertly led by PAF Professional Development Advisor, Sara Melita and PAF Academic Advisor, Kathy Newcomer. In this workshop PAFs discussed ways to put into action the lessons highlighted in Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen’s book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most.
Now if you’re thinking “What a great workshop, I wish I could have been there!” I’ve summarized some of the key lessons from this productive session.
  1. You know you are having a difficult conversation when you feel vulnerable, the stakes are high, the outcomes are uncertain, or you care deeply about the issue being discussed.

  2. The best way to navigate a difficult conversation is to focus on exploring the other's story and not to prove that you are right (even though you might be). 

  3. Shift from certainty to curiosity. For example, instead of thinking "How can they think that way?!" think, "I wonder what information they have that led to this conclusion?"

  4. Disentangle intent from impact. 

  5. Address your feelings with the other person. 

  6. Focus on the “Third Story.” In other words, if a third party were to enter the room how would they view this conversation?

If you are looking for strategies to navigate difficult conversations I would strongly encourage you to get your hands on a copy of the book, or ask to borrow mine.