Critical Conversations

Critical conversations occur when we talk about things that really matter and can make a difference. Critical conversations happen best in a comfortable place and space. When critical conversations happen there is a higher probability for conflicts to be resolved, harmony to be established and for many other good things to happen.

Some of my best management consulting and coaching experiences have been when a client is ready, willing and able to deal with a strategic issue. Strategic issues are topics, situations and dynamics that we typically want to ignore, dismiss, hide or forget about. They are those “things going on” that are uncomfortable to talk about and require us to be vulnerable. How many of those types of issues are haunting you, your family or your business right now?

To move toward and actually have a critical conversation is a matter of time, truth, trust and willingness to touch where it hurts the most. Let’s think through this carefully:

Take the time: Now is the time to take adequate time to deal with the matter(s) at hand. We too easily let time be an excuse. When we deal with the strategic issue, we will save time and here is why. Strategic issues are road blocks that stand in the way of important things getting done. They zap time and create inefficiency.

Tell the truth: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – so help yourself.

Trust: It is trusting yourself and the other person(s) involved to handle what needs to happen to the extent that things can get unstuck and move forward freely. The time must be taken. The truth will set you free to say what must be said and to do what must be done. Be competent, confident and consistent with each other.

Touch where it hurts: I mean this sincerely and literally. Act with words and a physical touch. Speak with specifics and touch the real pain. It may well be an actual thing or symbolic. We may need to touch our head pointing to our mind, our heart meaning a deep heartache or it may be a hug of care, love, support or forgiveness. Talk about the issue openly and touch what needs to be faced and healed.

Barbara and Cornelia encourage us to ask direct, open-ended questions and ask for concrete information. Here are examples from The Big Book of HR:

Tell me more.

Help me better understand.

Tell me why this is important.

What leads you to say that?

Give me an example.

How would that work?

Can you say a little more about how you see things?

Also: Be an active listener:

Be patient. Avoid interrupting

Resist the urge to formulate a response until after the speaker is finished

Listen for feelings as well as facts.

Find many more ideas in chapter 26 of The Big Book of HR.

At home and at work, critical conversations can change lives. If you don’t take the opportunity, maybe no one else in the world ever will.

 Bernie Linnartz, of Empowerment Experts, consultant, coach and facilitator

This article originally appeared in the Taos News on May 5, 2016

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