Difficult Conversations Essay Sample
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Difficult Conversations Essay Sample
Good communication is very important in daily life as well as in a business setting. Difficult Conversations talks about why some conversations are difficult, why people avoid having these conversations, and why people do poorly in them. The book is full of techniques for handling these discussions in an effective away. Difficult conversations can be anything from salaries/raises to complaining to a neighbor about their loud parties at night. Most of the time, people don’t say everything that they are thinking and feeling due to the fear of consequences. The author speaks about the dilemmas of the difficult conversation such as the consequences of avoiding the problem. The person may feel like they were taken advantage of or they feel like a coward. Also, some people just let their feelings build up and negative things can happen because of it. The author talks about how in each difficult conversation, there are three conversations that make it up. They are the “what happened” conversation, the “feelings” conversation, and the “identity” conversation.
In the “what happened” conversation, the problem is that people think the person they are talking to is the antagonist. They never stop and think that maybe they are the ones who aren’t making sense. They automatically attack the other person thinking they are being irrational or selfish. There is a lot of arguing in this situation which prevents any proper discussions. The people in this conversation need to understand each other’s point of view and think of why the other person’s point of view makes sense to them. But we also need to word our ideas in a way that makes other people understand our thought process and why we reached that idea. It takes work from both sides. A good point that the author makes in this chapter is to turn your certainty into curiosity. It helps to better your understanding on where the person is coming from. The “feelings” conversation talks about how to use your feelings in difficult conversations. It’s about the parties’ emotions and how valid they are. It is important not to keep your feelings in because it really affects how engaged we are in the discussion. It can be hard to know what someone is feeling. It’s good to sort out feelings because some of them are actual and valid while others involve judgments or accusations.
Feelings are static and always changing based on people’s perceptions and seeing things in a new way. Describing and expressing feelings is important but so is acknowledgement of the other person’s feelings. It will let them know that you are taking their feelings into account, that they matter to you and you are trying to understand their point of view. A quote that really stood out is “The route to changing your feelings is through altering your thinking” because it is very truthful. For example, in everyday court cases there is evidence, experts that come in, and witness that are questioned. The jury can have a certain bias or verdict in mind from the beginning. But with all of this information and hearing different people’s stories and point of views, the jury gains all these new perceptions which can alter their thinking and change their feelings. The “identity” conversation is a conversation that one has with themselves.
The author talks about some common mistakes people make in these internal conversations such as the “all or nothing syndrome”. This scenario is all about complete opposites such as “I am either good or bad”. It creates an unstable identity and makes people very sensitive and in denial about information that is not consistent with their self-image. This issue can be resolved by grounding one’s identity and accepting that they will make mistakes and that it will always be an OR and not an AND. For example, one that has the “all or nothing syndrome” will say “I am good or bad” but someone that has a good self-image and grounded identity will say “I am good and bad”. Now that the three conversations are identified, the author goes on to talk about creating the conversation.
The first decision is whether or not to raise the issue. Some important points to consider are if the conflict is with yourself or with someone else, if there is a better way to address the issue then talking about it, and if your purpose makes sense. The person should also know the important purpose of even having the discussion. They will learn the opposition’s story, they will get to express their views and feelings, and they will solve the problem together. If all of the points make sense, then the person is ready to have the difficult conversation. A good starting point is called the “third story”. It is told from a third person perspective who has no stake in the problem. In this, they describe the problem in a way that has validity for both sides. They describe the differences between them and not the judgments. This way, both parties feel that they are acknowledged.
Both parties have to remember the goal of the conversation which is to understand the other’s perspective better. Make the opposing member your partner in trying to figure out how to move forward together. This can be achieved by being genuine and persistent. Listening is the most important part of communication. It can transform the conversation in a positive or negative way. By listening to other people, it increases their listening to you and it changes the conversation from persuading someone to learning. When someone shows curiosity then it shows that you genuinely care about the person and their opinions. Some questions that can show curiosity are asking the person how they are feeling, and find out how they see it differently. If an agreement is not reached and someone has to walk away then it is important for the person to explain why they are walking away and that they accept the consequences.
In the movie Revolutionary Road, Frank and April can definitely learn from these communication suggestions. During an argument between Frank and April, they scream about how Frank always tries to talk things out while April wants peace and quiet to deal with it herself. This leads to April insulting Frank and him almost losing his cool and getting physical with her. Frank and April need to learn to calmly communicate when they have a disagreement. They need to listen to each other’s opinions and show they care. Before starting a difficult conversation, go through the three conversations and check the purposes behind wanting the conversation in the first place. The second step is deciding whether or not you want to raise the issue. Once that decision is made, start from the third story. Remember to listen from a viewpoint of genuine curiosity and ask questions to show that you are curious. Listening is extremely important and pay attention to the feelings behind the person’s words. Explore their story as well as your internal story and finally, be sure to problem-solve.