difficult conversations and colleagues

day 5

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Video transcript

Hello and welcome to day 5 of Searching for Serenity's 7-day video tutorial series, Dealing with Difficult Conversations and Colleagues.

Today I want to get straight into it.  I want you to bear with me because I am probably going to say something that you don't like.

Today we are looking at the power of role-play.

Don't switch off the video, don't click off the email! I am not going to ask you to get up in front of a group of people and quack like a duck or something like it.  (I'm not entirely sure if I am talking about role-play or hypnotism at this point, but anyway...).

The role of role-play in dealing with difficult conversations and colleagues.

Role-play in this context is very different from rumination.  What I am considering with you today is how you can practice and consider what is going to happen before it happens.  Almost like a superpower!

If you have ever delivered a presentation or gotten up in front of people you are one of two types.  You have either spent time practicing your first five or ten minutes of what you are going to say and wonder what you are going to do after that.  Alternatively you are the person who scripts out everything that they are going to say and stands there holding the paper and reads through it throughout.

Obviously you can't do this in a difficult conversation or when you are dealing with a difficult person because it is an unscripted situation.  However, what you can do is to use role-play.  In your own mind, without anyone else around, unless you want to bounce the ideas off of someone else.

What we are doing is preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.
If you know that you have a conversation that is going to be difficult coming up, you can go through it without it becoming overwhelming or creating an anxiety spiral that you fall into.  You can take the time to consider how you would deal with delivering the news that you have to deliver, but also consider your own response to the likely outcomes or responses to your news.

This is something that I do all the time.  Part of my role as a lawyer is, sadly, to deliverer difficult news to people.  before I do that I will give myself some time, even if it is just a couple of minutes, to consider how that person is going to respond and how I am going to take  the conversation further.
Consider it as verbal chess.  You are not only delivering your next move but considering your opponent's next three moves and your replies.

As an example, consider you are going to deliver news to a colleague that their performance is not great and that they are impacting other people.

At this point, dig in to previous videos and consider what we already know.  We can consider what we know about this person and the information that they have given us, both verbally and non-verbally.  We have considered where we can read between the lines or discover new information about this person.
Having listened to yesterday's video we have considered the submissive and aggressive response types and who to maintain your own neutral or co-operative stance  to prevent those individuals form affecting us.
Role play is a part of this; preparation ahead of the game, figuring out your own response, considering your outcomes, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

So in the situation above, consider what you know about this person already, what you have studied about them already.  You can make notes of what you know and begin to draw up a profile of sorts.
What do you know about them, how do they tend to react, aggressively or submissively.  Do they have certain likes or personality types the will affect the way you deliver the news or their likely responses.  If there any way that you can deliver the news without it immediately becoming an affront.  Is there some kind of bridge or connection between you.  Something tat you have in common to open the conversation and show this person that you are trying to work with them, to make sure that it isn't a simple one way conversation

Think about all of those and consider the way that this person will react. 

If they become angry and aggressive how will you respond to them?  I don't simply mean ending the conversation, consider what you would say, even practice the phrases that you would use.
I will sometimes do this when I know that there is going to be a difficult meeting or conversation coming up and I will practice and role-play different outcomes - from the extreme 'screw this I'm out of here' version to the extreme 'telling someone how it is' the extreme version of someone blaming me...each of the extreme emotional responses.

None of those scenarios are going to happen; I am never going to simple tell someone to stick it and that I am done and similarly I am never going to tell someone that they have wounded me in a work situation because, frankly, I wouldn't give them the power over me.

But by practicing each of these emotional responses and becoming quite invested in them, you have already explored the extremes of what could happen: what is the worst that could happen?  How could the real response you receive be any worse than the worst-case scenarios you have already considered and practiced?  

It is never as bad as you think it is going to be but getting those scenarios out the way will help for 2 reasons.

Firstly, any real world scenario that isn't as destructive as the scenario you have imagined is a win.
Secondly, you have already invested and divested yourself of the emotional involvement so you shouldn't have as great an emotional response as a result of the practice.

You will have already taken the time to consider the likely responses that you will receive; you will therefore be more sensitive to they responses and can consider altering your own style or delivery to suit them  You will have already practiced your co-operative or neutral stance and will therefore have a space to return to and to draw them back into the conversation.

For today's exercise I want you to practice, whether it's on paper, in your mind, ranting in the shower if you want to! Have that difficult conversation with someone in your head.  I would ask you to use a real-life scenario (perhaps don't rant about your other half whilst you're in the shower, you might be overheard!).  Consider a difficult conversation that you have had or wish you had had and practice each emotional outcome.  If it is a conversation that you have already had in real life, compare it with your emotional role-plays.  How do your emotions feels form what you practiced as opposed to what you know to be true.
This exercise is about preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, it allows you to get the emotions out of the way and not bottle them up, it allows you more freedom and to reconsider your options without having this conversation take you by surprise.

That will happen occasionally but the more the you practice this and consider the response that someone will have to you based on the information you hold about them, the less likely it is that you will be caught off-guard.

I would love to hear how you get on with this exercise.  it might appear to be out of left field but it is very mcc about making sure that you are in the absolutely best position you can be in to deal with these difficult conversations and colleagues.

If this is something that you want to practice in more depth you can always reach out to me at hello@searchingforserenity.co.uk or you can reach out to me in the Searching for Serenity private Facebook group.

I would love to hear how you get on with this.  Have fun with this, it's a good exercise to practice!
I will be back in your inbox tomorrow but bye for now.