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10 steps to winning difficult conversations — the ones you really don’t’ want to have!

Whether it’s confronting your boss, a member of staff, your Mum, your child’s teacher or the plumber who promised to finish the shower 2 weeks ago, difficult conversations aren’t easy.

I’ve coached thousands to have those icky conversations that you put off. Here’s your quick guide on how to have those tough conversations, get the result you want and ensure both parties leave happy.

1. Assume good.

When you think about the conversation you don’t want to have, you are assuming there is going to be swearing, doors slammed, bad words, tears, smashed plates and someone hating you for eternity. The fact is that this rarely happens, but your brain is in charge, and you have let it run crazy wild like a 5 year old on too much candy.

Stop and think about what you want to see happen. I am going to teach you how to have win win conversations and relationships — even with the passive aggressive pain that knows how to provoke you.

2. Plan your outcome.

What do you want to see happen and don’t be unrealistic here. Ideally you want every conversation to end with a win win conversation building a win win relationship (I learnt about those from Bob Burg — check him out, great guy.) You don’t want to see them burn in the fiery pits of hell for all time — that level of negative emotion won’t do you any favours. What would be the end result you want?

3. Match — but not like your weird.

I teach a lot of people about how to communicate powerfully, whether it’s closing a deal, a networking event or getting a teacher to listen to your concerns about your child. And one way to get some on your side is to match them. Consider;

How fast do they speak?

Do they use one level or vary it?

How loud are they?

Do they pause?

Are they sat forward or back (Yes this still applies on Zoom and understanding this gives you an edge in online communication!)

Do they sit still or are they all jazz hands and big body movements?

What style of words do they like? Do they say things like “I see what you are saying” or “I hear you” or “I feel you aren’t listening to me.”

You can use this information to build rapport but a word of caution, over do this and you can look very creepy, and that other person is backing out of the room like you’re a psychopath.

Done gently you can make people feel listened to. Using phrases like “I hear where you are coming from” when they’ve used auditory language is a subtle way of connecting. People that are very good at communication naturally do this and you can learn to do it well too. Not sure on this one? Comment on my mastermind group and I will guide you.

4. Sacrifice.

To do well in difficult conversations know where your boundaries lie. What would you accept at the minimum? What would push you too far and make you walk away? Know in advance where you will give a little.

5. Internal confidence.

Note the word internal. There is a big difference between internal confidence and external confidence. One doesn’t’ alter on a good day or a bad, and the other does. If you build your inner confidence you can deal with difficult conversations a lot easier. I’ve so many strategies to do this, start with the why I’m Awesome Doc — write down on an A4 piece of paper on both sides, why you are awesome. Often there is a gap between what you believe to be true and the facts. This document helps bridge that gap. So don’t hide the finished document away!

6. But Mandie, what are they thinking!

You’ve got to worry less about what others are thinking. I know that’s easier said than done and I spent my life dealing with corporate team’s internal dialogue and business owners fears about what people might think of them. If it really worries you — ask them. Stop assuming and ask. But by building your internal confidence you can handle anything that people are thinking, because let’s be honest there are billions of people on this planet — you aren’t going to get on with them all.

7. State the facts.

To do this you need to know them in advance. Take out the emotions and word the facts before the session. Fact — You said X would happen and it has not. Fact “We agreed on X and not Y.” It’s not easy taking the emotion out of it so know your facts in advance.

8. Ditch the why

Coaching style questions are genius for getting people to do what you want them to do. They take away judgement and opinion and enable honest dialogue. For instance ditch any conversation that starts with “Why” and swap it to “What are the reasons this has……” this enables people to speak without believing you’re judging them — even if you are! I’ve got tons of awesome questions you can ask. Head to my website to learn some crackers or message me. But pre difficult meeting play out some questions to ask and some phrases to ditch.

9.Next!

Before you meet, what do you want to see happen next. It is one thing to know the outcome you want but what will be the steps to get you there? What would you like that to look like? Laying this out in black and white means there can be no “Oh I didn’t think you meant that” Passive aggressive types and those that aren’t going to listen no matter how compelling your argument will be good at moving the goal posts, so be crystal clear on what they are. Make sure they are put in writing if necessary and don’t be frightened to set a date to revisit the difficult conversation. You can do this now. Difficult conversations aren’t going to hold you back, are they? And lastly…

10.Stop talking

A big mistake people make in negotiations and in difficult conversation is they keep talking. Stop talking. State what you want to say, make them feel heard (repeat back what they’ve said to help them feel heard using the matching language) tell them where the boundaries lie and what you want to see happen next and then stop talking. This is powerful because people hate silence. When I get people to stand on a stage and say a sentence and then be quiet for 2 seconds, they rarely manage it, because seconds seem to take hours! So, if you stop talking, they will start. If you have stated your position, said what you want to see happen next, now let them talk. There may be an awkward silence but if you can become comfortable with awkward silence like a 1970’s library you will win. If it helps you can count the seconds — how long will you wait?

As always let me know how you get on, feel free to like this post and share it and ensure you are following me for the next one.

Got something you need help with?
Email me or connect on social media and I will write something especially for you — no one will know that.

  • February 5, 2022

5 reasons why people don’t do as you ask— and the strategies to fix it

Whether it’s a member of staff that is always late with a report, a toddler that is over attached to the word No or your partner who never listens to you. It can be frustrating, demoralising and make you question your skills as a leader, parent or human when you’re saying words, and no one is doing as you’ve asked. So, if you’re faced with someone that just won’t listen and do as you ask, here’s 6 reasons why and what you can do about it.

1. Perspective.

A big reason people don’t do as you ask them to, is because your perception of importance does not match up to theirs. For instance, to you it’s essential that someone from your company is out there bringing in new business, your staff on the other hand see it as a waste of time impacting on their to do list. Helping people to adjust their perception so they see the value in the actions you are asking to be completed will make them compliant with little effort from you.

Helping them to see the personal benefits to them shifts their attitude to the task and lowers their resistance to it too. With the networking example they can see that new business means more profit and more profit means more money for your team. “Hang on, I’m getting the money? Well, that’s different!”

It’s far easier to get people to see the benefits for themselves than to attempt to convince them your way is right; do you want to know why?

2. Ego.

It can feel disrespectful when someone doesn’t do as we ask them to can’t it? Do they not love me? Do they not value their job? Do they not care? Taking it personally brings your emotions and feelings into it and that will make it harder for you to bring a sense of calm clarity to the situation.

Take your ego out of the equation and consider theirs. What is that person feeling? What might they be thinking? (See below for more on this). Ego can get in the way and force us to respond in a less than brilliant way (see the next strategy for more on this). Consider if the relationship could be damage as a result of your desire to make this person do this task? Is your ego and how you feel more important than the end result?

If it’s imperative to use reframing to help them see what you see. It means they don’t have to back down on what they value and can honour you too. Enable them to step back and understand the situation for themselves. For example, “If you don’t get out there and network and “Schmooze” (as one member of staff put it) then we won’t have any clients and you won’t have any billable hours”. If chatting to people is now worth a lot of money, (even a bonus) suddenly it looks more appealing, doesn’t it?

3. They can’t help it!

Have you seen Finding Nemo when they shout, “Don’t touch the butt” and poor Nemo ends up in a lot of trouble because he touched the butt. (Actually, it’s a boat, but those fish didn’t hear the correct pronunciation!) A whole films worth of grief, scary moments and near-death experiences.

When people don’t do as you wish, they are having a psychological response that says, “I’m in charge here not you”. We want to at a very fundamental level be in charge of ourselves. It keeps us safe, otherwise someone could tell you to jump in the road and you would — we need to be able to decide for ourselves what’s important and what needs to happen. If you want to see this one in action, check out the click bait titles on social media — You will never believe this……well I’ll be the judge of that……ha got you!

And as William Wallace in The Highlander shouted before battle “You will never take our freedom!” So don’t threaten their autonomy and they are far more likely to respond appropriately. It’s a fast way to gain respect, without asking for it.

Primarily us humans like to get our own way, but we also like to feel safe. Put those two things together and you have “You aren’t the boss of me!” (Even if you are!) As I tell clients, Newton had it right “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

As an example, my client manages a very large team and was incredibly frustrated by a couple of members of staff that always had excuses why things weren’t done. This approach not only got them on side it worked on their 17-year-old son who found a new interest in loading the dishwasher!

Look to show you appreciate their view, feelings, emotions, etc so that they feel listened to. Utilising NLP skills can work here (called mirroring) just be cautious about getting this wrong because it can look weird and trite

Ensure you ask coaching style questions for this one, so ditch the “Why didn’t you do this!” for “What could be the reasons that this has not happened?” It’s non judgemental and it will help you with the next strategy.

4. Assumptions.

Just because you’re brilliant at time management do not assume those around you are too. A study at Carnegie Mellon University’s human computer interaction lab had 100+ students sit a test. Half were asked to turn their phones off and the other half had their phones on and received intermittent messages. Those students who had their phones on performed on average 20% worse!

Okay things like this seem obvious but what are their time management skills like?
It’s amazing how many people have things on their to do list that aren’t’ that important that they will do over sacrificing things that actually need doing — I will explain why in the next top tip.

So don’t assume they know what you want them to do and why. Have you explained it?

Have you said it clearly? You may think you said one thing and they heard another — “It would be good to have that report by Friday” is to you I want that report by Friday they heard “Get it done when you can, Friday is good but not essential.”

A big reason people don’t manage their staff (children, etc) effectively is because of communication and boundary issues. I often hear “Well it’s obvious, isn’t it?” Is it?

5. Fear.

Three fears play out here. The most important one is the fear of what people will think of you. Next comes “Well what if I get this wrong? And lastly comes “Actually I don’t think I know how to do this!” (If you’ve read my book Fight the fear, you will know these 3 fears in detail.)

When someone doesn’t do as they’ve asked to repeatedly there has to be a reason. Once you’ve ditched the assumptions and see it from their point of view, using clear communication, make the environment safe for them to say anything.

In this situation in team coaching, I often hear some eye-opening things. The best one was the team of 25 who were working with me for a week on business growth, team building and performance, they wanted to rewrite their vision and create goals that everyone had helped create. Awesome right? Except halfway through the second day one team member finally plucked up the courage to say, “Look I know we do something to do with logistics, but I don’t’ really know what.” That person had been with the company for 12 years! But they lacked confidence or the communication skills to speak up so had been struggling for years. This is often the case, so don’t assume people know how to do what you’ve asked. Ask them, guide them, empower them, train them, coach them.

R and R

And lastly if you get stuck or aren’t sure of the best approach, try something and ensure you have a date to come back and R and R — reflect and review.

Is it working?

What needs to change?

What do I/They need to do differently?

How can I assist? Etc, etc.

The great news is that if it’s in a workplace setting and you’ve coached them to do as you expect of them and then they don’t you’ve a documented journey of what you have done to help them.

It’s amazing how many business owners do not appreciate that by working with a coach, they can then take that knowledge to HR or an employment lawyer and ensure they get the result they actually want. Alas this is not something you can do with your children or partner!

If you loved this article and benefited, please do share it, ensure you follow me on medium and social media. All links are on my site and get in touch anytime so I can write something specifically for you. This article was written for two new clients who I start work with in 2 weeks. This is to get them up and running, I hope it helps you too.

  • February 5, 2022

Mission Statement – Why Bother?

One of the first things I did when I set up my business was write a mission statement. I did this for a number of reasons;

1. To remind me of what matters most to me. What is at the core, the heart of my business. In business it is all to easy to get rail roaded into other great ideas that come along. Only to find yourself 6 months later going in a direction that doesn’t sit right with you and is taking you away from the goals and ambitions for your business.

2. Every business woman that comes into contact with me knows my mission statement so that they know my dedication and determination to support them in every way that I can. This also ensures that I constantly ask the question of myself “Am I marketing my business in the right way?” “Is it connecting with the right people?” “Do they feel like I care and I want to help them?” Making people feel truly special will help stand you a part from the competition. Anyone can design a website/make a cake/decorate your house/write a will. But few people will you connect with and want to work with again and again. A mission statement tells people what they get from you.

3. As my business has grown I’ve had to rely on other people. One of the issues I hear from business owners all the time is “They don’t do it like I would!” That is the whole point! That you get diversity, creativity and other people on board to create a business that is capable of growth. If  you control every decision and never listen to others you risk losing out. But to ensure everyone from the Cleaner, the post man to your CEO are on the same page. Have a mission statement. Let everyone feel it is their mission statement. That they are a critical cog in the business. If everyone can see your vision, then everyone can work towards it.

4. It keeps you all on track, from suppliers, customers to your staff. Every area of your business can benefit from a mission statement. It keeps things simple and in business, that is always a good thing!

  • October 7, 2014