Ever play catch with a raw egg?
At picnics, the raw egg toss is one of the time honored fun games to play outside. Although they are fragile, eggs can be tossed and caught without breaking if the person who tosses it does so by throwing the egg lightly and lofting it in the air and the person who catches the egg does so by gently cupping it and continues to move their hands in the same direction the egg is moving in, slowly bringing their hands to a stop.
The further apart you get from your partner, the more difficult it is to achieve success because you have to throw the egg harder to get it across the increased distance. It’s difficult to capture an egg in your hands when they are moving at the same rate of speed as the egg.
Broaching a difficult conversation is a bit like that. Like tossing an egg to someone who is a few feet away, It’s not so hard to give people some difficult news:
- I’m taking a new position.
- I’m cancelling our date.
- I don’t want to go to that movie.
But throwing things at a greater distance is more difficult –
- You did not get the promotion.
- You need to produce a better work product if you want a pay increase.
- I want to talk to you about your moving to a care-facility
It’s much more likely that there will be a mess!
Most people don’t enjoy having difficult conversations. They would prefer to avoid the emotion (usually angers or sadness) that accompany these types of conversations.
But if you think about these conversations in terms of their intention and ultimate goal, it can help to shift from’ me’ or’ you’ – to ‘us.’ It can become a learning conversation where we discover how to improve the situation. The WE part is especially tricky, so I suggest looking at the parts of the conversation that, when you combine them, create that meaningful albeit difficult conversation:
Ask – Ask questions. Don’t assume you understand what someone means. Don’t rush to tell your side of the story. Explore what the other person might be thinking, hoping for, or wanting. Ask how they react to what you’ve just said.
Restate – Summarize what you’ve hear the other person say. Check to see if your interpretation is accurate. What you are attempting to do is to translate their words into your understanding.
Acknowledge – Grant them their perception. You can’t tell someone else what they see or how they feel so recognize their reality.
Hard conversations are greatly improved if you view them as a great way to improve your relationship, further your professional life, or advance your happiness. Focusing on getting better at them rather than avoiding them is like catching the tossed egg instead of wearing it.