Taking Your Stage Blog  
  Helping you improve the communication skills of the leaders and teams in your organization.  

3 items categorized "Conflict Resolution"


Telling "The Third Story"

IStock_000001056012_webI looked at the time.  Just 5 minutes before I was to teach communication skills in conflict management with Hippo Solutions to a group of employees at a company in Franklin, Tennessee.

Since I had a few minutes to spare, I checked my email.  Wow- what timing!  A friend had just sent a distressed message, forwarding on an email she had sent to a client, asking me what she had done wrong. The client had called her on the phone spewing a verbal firestorm, saying her "tone" in her email was totally out of line.

I looked at what she had written.  She had started the email by defending herself, stating her perspective of something they had discussed earlier.  Right out of the gate she had shot herself in the foot (how's that for two idioms in a row?).

I hurriedly wrote her back.  "It's best to have these kinds of conversations in person or at least on the phone.  Email often doesn't relay our 'tone' accurately.  In any case, you might want to try starting your conversation by showing that you believe the best about him, stating something you can both agree on."

It was exactly what I was about to teach.  Advisors from The Harvard Negotiation Project in their book Difficult Conversations recommend that we start from "The Third Story."  Instead of starting from The First Story, your story, in which you would say, "I think you are wrong," or from The Second Story, in which you would say, "I know you think you are right," try starting from The Third Story.

Whether it's a tough conversation with a coworker or your spouse, the Third Story is the story you can both agree on, the story which starts, "You and I both want this relationship to work," or "We both want to keep this customer," or "You and I both love our kids."  In so doing, you start by affirming the other person as having good intentions and paint the picture of the two of you on the same team working together to solve a problem.

Then you can clarify, "It seems like we have different perspectives on this.  I would like to hear yours and share mine with you, too."  (Of course, you would say all of this in your own words so it won't sound like it came directly out of a textbook.)

After I finished teaching the session to my captive audience, I checked my email.  My friend had decided to call her client.  Not surprisingly, he call-screened her, so she left him a message.  If he gives her another chance and calls her back, I have a feeling he's going to hear her begin the conversation with a much better story- The Third Story.




5 Things TO Say in a Conflict

Stick_comm_medI recently reviewed 5 Things NOT To Say In A Conflict.  Here are five things that you CAN say in a conflict in order to boost your communication skills.

1.  "Yes, And..."

This is a technique from Improv Theatre that validates you heard what the person just said, and gives you the opportunity to add to the dialogue.  Use this instead of "But."

2.  "This is how I see things...., how do you see them?"

This is a question that will help you discover how the other person is perceiving the situation.  What is the issue?  The entire conflict could be a matter of different perceptions.

3.  "I" / "We"

Use a lot of statements with "I" and "We" in them instead of "You."  This helps to acknowledge your role in the conflict and makes it more collaborative.  Although be careful of "we" - make sure it's not condescending resulting in a "what do you mean we?" response.

4.  "I heard what you said, I'd like to go back, process it, and come back to you in a couple of hours to discuss further."

This is a segway to take a step back and get out of the emotion of the moment before you say anything that will only escalate the tension.

5.  "You're a jerk and I'm tired of trying to collaborate with you.  This is simply how we are going to do it."

OK, just kidding.  Don't say this.  But we know this may be what you really WANT to say!  So...just maybe...you should give yourself time to vent this privately before engaging the other person with alternative healthy dialogue.

Let me know how those work for you!





5 Things NOT to Say in a Conflict

IStock_000017265087_webThe title says it all - here are five things NOT to say when you are communicating in a conflict situation.  And if you find that the tension seems to rise in a conflict instead of cool off, cross-check how you are communicating with these 5 "don'ts":

1.  "But"

"I understand that you feel that way, but..."

"I agree that we need to ....., but..."

You're just completely negated whatever you just said, and put up a barrier that will cause the other person to immediately feel defensive.

2.  "You"

"You really need to calm down."

"You need to talk to John and get a different perspective."

I'm not saying NEVER use "You" - but be very careful about "you statements."  Saying "you" in a conflict often feels to the other person feels like you are pointing your finger at them.

3.  "Calm down"

Does this really ever work?  Ever?  It really just enflames the emotions of the other person and irritates them.

4.  "You shouldn't feel that way" OR "Don't be so emotional"

What I really mean is"I want you to act and be the way that I want you to be."

5.  "Don't take it personally"

Uh-huh.  Conflict is always personal.  That's why it's called conflict - it reaches in and makes us feel something.

Check to see if you are using one of these - most of us do without realizing it!

If you are wondering what to say instead hang on!  I'll give you what TO say in my next post.