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We are reluctant to initiate courageous conversations because we fear the response will be anger or defensiveness. While this is a possibility, we can lower that risk significantly by beginning the dialogue in a way that creates as much safety as possible for others.

How do we do that? By asking permission to engage with them at a time that is convenient for them and by stating up front our overall purpose or intention for the dialogue.

In order to do this, we need to be very clear about what we want from this communication and relationship. What is your intention and what do you really want from this person? Do you simply want to be heard and understood?  Is there a specific behavior you want them to change? Do you want them to give you something? Clear intention is everything.

Hopefully you are gathering courage to bring this up because you want to strengthen the relationship, see them thrive at work, or encourage better team work, etc. Your job is to create as much safety as possible so this dialogue can be successful. If they know your intention is positive up front, they may be more open to hearing you.

I’ve had moments where I’ve wanted to bring up an issue just to prove to someone that I’m right, make them wrong and show them the gross error in their ways. As my friend Dale used to say, “Mara you just need to move that person into the room of right thinking!”

Having tried this approach as a young adult with my father, I can tell you it has never produced a constructive exchange between us!

What does work is to find a place of compassion in our hearts. People have a sixth sense about our energy beyond words. If we’re approaching others with the intention of being caring, compassionate and curious this can be very helpful to the dialogue. If we prepare ourselves to be more heartfelt in our approach beforehand, we will likely be more open to listening to them and be more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Also, be curious about why you’re angry. Beneath our anger is usually fear or hurt or feeling threatened somehow.  We may have fears about not being respected, accepted (included), valued or appreciated.  This will help you get to the real issue and allow you to be more real with them.

What are the ultimate goals of a crucial conversation? To clarify reality, lower defensiveness, create more safety and trust, create win/win agreements, get our needs met and ultimately strengthen our relationships.  Crucial conversations skills do not guarantee that others will change. They simply increase the likelihood you’ll have a positive influence. Ultimately, the only person you can change is yourself.

From the Voice of Business