Make It an Intentional Conversation

When it comes to voicing issues or concerns, there are basically two types of conversations. The first is one that erupts out of frustrations. Like a balloon that is holding too much hot air, this conversation pops when least expected sometimes causing irreparable damage.

No one involved is prepared to deal with this situation at this time. When it comes about suddenly words might be spoken that were never intended but the heat of the moment bubbled them to the surface. More often than not, this conversation doesn't bring about the desire results of bringing people together. On the contrary, it tends to widens the gap.

The second conversation is obviously a much better option at it is intentional and happens with much forethought and planning. It is one that allows for a needed measure of control not just for the initiator but for all concerned. With careful planning it usually removes that unexpected "pop."

So how do we go about setting up this second type of conversation? For starters, we must realize that we can only control the conversations we initiate. If others decide that they are going to "pop" and demand a heated conversation, there is nothing we can do other than to disengage in such a way as to not pour fuel on the fire. As the common saying indicates, Keep Calm. Acknowledge the person needs to talk and suggest a time that would allow some cooling off. If they continue, listen only until there is the opportunity to repeat your request of setting another time. Repeat until they agree.

For the conversations you initiate, plan them carefully. By doing the following you should be able to set up the optimum conditions for a results oriented conversation.

Schedule this conversation BEFORE things get too hot to handle.

Too many people think things will get better if they are ignored and yet they get more distressed - angry perhaps - as time proves that they won't. It is necessary to relieve the pressure much earlier in the situation. Don't let it build; schedule the conversation and deal with what needs to be dealt with.

Schedule the timing of the conversation for optimum results.

In any organization there are good days and bad days. There are times when the workload becomes some kind of nightmare and there is little time to focus on anything else. However, there is a natural ebb and flow. In order to ensure that this intentional conversation gets the attention it deserves, be very selective over the timing. Be mindful of what is happening around you so your conversation doesn't get sabotaged. It is hard to get started; it is even harder to get restarted if interrupted.

Have a clear outcome of the conversation before starting.

Knowing exactly what you want to achieve is critical to the success of the conversation. Like Stephen Covey always said, "Begin with the end in mind." Keep to the facts. Eliminate emotions as you stay calm and focus on the end results. As your discussion moves on be sure that it stays on track and don't get sidetracked by anything else. If you find that it is going off topic, be diplomatic and bring it back.

Be prepared to offer some solutions as you discuss the problems.


If your intentional conversation is to address problems, concerns or issues then it would be advisable to bring to the table some potential solutions. Be prepared to offer ideas that will alleviate some of the things that you are intending to address. Showing that you have given this a lot of thought and perhaps have included your colleagues in the pre-planning stage will go a long way to being heard. And I would suggest that most of us just want to be heard when we are faced with these kinds of situations.

Choose words that are unemotional and neutral.

Believe it or not there are some words that act like the fuel on a fire. They immediately rile up and cause backs to get up. Amazing how the ears don't work nearly so well when the back gets up. It is much harder to keep calm and have a conversation focused on the facts rather than emotions. What words cause people to react? They are different for different people. 'Should' is one of those words as it implies judgement. When you say, "You should" it can ignite a defensive response.

Saying, "You did a great job, but......" suggests that the first part of the sentence is NOT true. The word 'but' negates what came before it.

It is a good idea to observe your colleagues and especially your superiors to determine which words cause them to react negatively. Once you learn those, avoid them in any and all conversations, intentional or otherwise.

There is so much more to be gained by planning to have those difficult conversations as intentions rather than heated eruptions. Everyone can benefit by keeping calm and handling things in a win-win manner as outlined above. The key is to do it early and not wait until you're ready to explode. This is also one of the best pieces of advice you can share with your colleagues. In this way everyone can win.

As a Certified Coach, I can help you prep your intentional conversation. Take me up on my FREE 30 minute consultation to see how I can help.

http://www.merrimacartney.com