6 Rules for Handling a Tricky Conversation
1. They Don't Care What You Know Till They Know That You Care
There is an age-old maxim: "Words that come from the heart enter the heart." Indeed, only a sincere and heartfelt expression of feelings—with much less criticism—has a chance of being effective. If you communicate your genuine concern for, and interest in, this person and your relationship, she or he will receive your words the way you intended.
2. Privacy, Please
Always express yourself in private. Even if you feel that the other person wouldn't mind an audience, have your conversation behind closed doors.
3. Begin with Praise
When this person knows that you have genuine respect and appreciation—perhaps even reverence or awe—then she or he will hear your comments in a way that doesn't engage the ego. For instance, "You're one of the most productive employees, and I'm continually in awe of how you do what you do. I was just wondering about..."
4. Depersonalize the Impact
Comments and critiques should address the act, not the person. In other words, instead of saying, "You're incompetent or reckless," it's better to say, "You're such a wonderful person, and this behavior seems out of character."
5. We're in This Together
Share some of the responsibility if you can. Notice I didn't say share the blame. The approach of shared responsibility makes it both of you against this "thing"—not you against the other person. You might say something like "I'm having a hard time when you..." instead of "You have no right to..." Or "I should have been more specific about what I wanted" rather than "I hate when you..."
6. Identify the Problem and Put Energy into Solving It
Have a solution ready to offer—or questions that will help you both find a solution. If there is no answer to the problem, then you shouldn't bring it up in the first place, because the conversation serves no purpose. And if you believe that no matter what you say, the other person won't take your advice, then it's also best not to bring it up. If you do, then you only serve your own interests, and you won't help the situation. Remember, the goal is to make things better.
This excerpt was taken from Never Get Angry Again: The Foolproof Way to Stay Calm and in Control in Any Conversation or Situation, by David J. Lieberman, PhD. Copyright © 2018. Reprinted with permission from St. Martin's Press.