Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting Those Disagreements Resolved

A colleague of mine asked me to write about a few simple steps that can be used to navigate the proverbial "difficult conversation." I've written about this in past posts, but here is a helpful recap of a simple three-step process I use, including a self-guided preparation activity at the end:

Step 1: Initiate the Dialogue
Agree to have a conversation to explore issues, feelings and potential next steps.
- Opportunity to clear the air
- Understand how this conflict affects each of us
- Outline the values and needs at stake for each of us
- Uncover assumptions we each have

Step 2: Clarify the Situation
Communicate and clarify the important issues in order to elicit both perspectives on the situation.
- Tell “our stories” and goals for resolving the issue
- Clarify the issues in a productive manner
- Build a shared understanding of the important issues
- Identify what each person needs in order to move forward

Step 3: Brainstorm, Evaluate and Choose Solutions
Talk out loud about how to meet each other’s expectations.
- Focus the conversation on ways to meet or revise expectations
- As agreements form, give them the “Monday Test:” What will happen when we both come to work on Monday; will this help both of us move on?”
- Write down or verbally summarize the new expectations in a realistic and specific format

Preparation Activity:

- Think about a current or recent “unmet expectation” that either did or could possibly turn into a conflict at work
- Identify which of the 10 ineffective conflict management styles you used (or may be inclined to use) in this circumstance
- Review the three steps of conflict management and “script out” your approach to proactively address the situation
- Find a partner and practice working through each of the three steps

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