difficult conversations and colleagues

day 2

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Hello and thank you for joining me for day 2 of Searching for Serenity's 7 day video tutorial series, Dealing with Difficult Conversations and Colleagues.
I hope that you really saw the impact yesterday of not taking on other people's difficulties and I hope that you are already seeing progress.

Today is a slightly more introspective exercise, bringing psychology into the mix.

One of the best things you can do in dealing with difficult conversations is to improve your ability to read other people.  Now, difficult conversations are a two-way street, this isn't simply about delivering news or responding to someone who doesn't respond to you.  It is about reading the situation to get the best out of other people.

I want you to consider a difficult conversation or a difficult person around you in a situation that is currently arising.  If you don't have that situation right now, then consider this a role-play exercise and think of a difficult conversation or person in the past.  We are looking specifically at the people around you.

Broadly speaking, today's video could be summed up in the phrase 'it's not you, it's them'!  

We spent yesterday focusing on ourselves and today we are focusing on other people; how we can investigate other people.

Emotional intelligence is something I could spend 6 months talking to you about and it is a great thing to improve upon not only to improve your career prospects but also your interpersonal relationships.  Being able to identify other people's motivations, their persuading factors, determining the language that you use with them really will change and increase the impact of any conversation you have with them.

This is an interesting one for me to talk to you about because, as you may already know, I am a practising and qualified lawyer.  I have dealt with clients and individuals in the full spectrum of society; from victims of crime at the very first impact to captains of industry who are trying to recover millions of pounds.  As you can imagine, talking to those people requires different skills and you need to be able to read those individuals both before you deliver the difficult conversation and after, during this ongoing relationship with them.  

Whilst you are in that conversation, being able to assess the impact on the other person is huge because you can then react and adapt accordingly.

This is about becoming a little bit of chameleon and reading other people.  It is a tricky skill to learn but you can be introduced to it almost immediately.

I want you to consider someone you know, perhaps someone you work with.  We will use one person as a case study and then you can start applying these skills out to other people.

What do you know about this person; what's their gender, their age, do you know anything about them on a social level? What kind of interaction have you had with them so far, what kind of information can you glean from them. This is a very interesting task to carry out because it's almost an archaeological task - you are digging through the information someone has, consciously or unconsciously, given you to glean nuggets to inform your behaviour.

For example, I am sat in a meting with a client who is in their late 20s.  They have had a really difficult time and they have struggled.  They have some issues with authority, now how do I know all this?  Firstly from the information I hold before I even meet them; you may well know details of someone's name, age, where they live, before you even first speak with them.  I am not suggesting that it is so simple as to assume that someone's address informs you of who they are as a person, but you can start to develop a picture of what this individual *might* be like.

When I get into this meeting I will consider the way they are dressed, the way they approach me or address me, whether they make eye contact, and I will start responding to them accordingly.

If this client calls me 'Miss Steele' I will ask them to call me by my first name.  Check out the body language I exhibit in the video; I use appeasing body language, tilting my head to forge a connection, smiling and making warm eye contact.

Now, this is starting from the very beginning; the people you are dealing with you may know far more about.  

So what you should do is to actively consider the information that you know about this person.

Consider a difficult colleague who comes in to work and talks about football; they talk about their favourite team, what they got up to at the weekend.  You will know more about their background, their interests and the more subtle details that they may not have spelled out explicitly.  All of these can be used to forge a connection; once you forge the connection the conversation instantly becomes easier because they know you, or they think they know you and that you have common ground.

I may talk to a client about what they got up to at the weekend, I'll always talk to them about pets because I love my animals and that forges a common connection.  You find the common threads and start following them through and using them to determine how you are going to correspond with the other person.

This is a huge topic and we could spend weeks on it, but what it means for you today is that you can consider the people around you and consider where those connections may or may not be going well.  Consider the people around you and determine where you do and do not have common ground, and consider the people you need to find out more about.

This exercise allows you to remove the fear-factor from a difficult conversation because those individuals on the other side of the conversation are no longer an unknown quantity.  Picking up the phone to someone you know nothing about, you sometimes don't know where to start.  If you have actively considered what you already know about this person and what more you need to know, you have already narrowed down the options immediately.  It means you know where you are going with the conversation.

Importantly, this exercise means you spend more time considering the other person that worrying about your own emotions or fears.  If you are in service to someone else, if you are delivering difficult news, if you are working with someone else, you make it about them.  Firstly, everyone likes to feel flattered and secondly you are focusing on them and you don't have time to think about whether your shirt is appropriate or whether you left the gas hob on at home this morning.

So this is today's exercise.  Starting acting like an archeologist and start digging through the information that's all around you about these people you have to have difficult conversations or those people that are difficult conversations.  Start digging through the information you hold about their personality, study them, and consider what you can glean about them to build a picture.

The final point of this is empathy.  The more you know about a person the more likely you can find a way to empathise with them.  This helps you to  bridge the space and create common ground; it is no longer a 'them and us' situation, but working together.  When you can do that, you will find these conversations and colleagues far less difficult than you thought because they are not so different from you in some ways.

This is a tricky exercise, take some time with it today.  Spend some time considering this today.  Perhaps study someone you know relatively well at work and consider what you know about their personality and what information that gives you as far as their motivations, the language you would use with them and how you would bridge this conversation with them.

If you need more support you can always reach out to me at hello@searchingforserenity.co.uk or you can come and join us in the Searching for Serenity Facebook group; it is a private group so only the members can see the comments made and it is full of other professional, heartfelt women who are on the same journey as you.  The are there for you to ask for support and to provide it for others too.

Let me know how you get on with this exercise today; I'm really interested to know what information you realise or discover about other people and how that affects the way that you deal with them.

In the meantime, do keep building on what we have already learned.  I will be back in your inbox tomorrow but in the meantime I hope that you have an amazing day.