Christy and I have been married long enough that fighting isn't really worth it anymore. We plan on racing each other in our motorized scooters in the nursing home, so why waste the effort of raising our hackles?
Albeit rare, we still do have our disagreements from time to time.
They are. so rare, however, that I can tell you the exact topic that causes our disagreements:
Throwing away things.
A graphic will help illustrate.
This has become such a bone of contention at our house that the judicial bedrock innocent until proven guilty holds no meaning to my family.
If I had a nickel for every time I faced this accusation, "Dad, did you throw away my ____" I would be a wealthy man. Or as Christy says, "If you would obsess over your blog like you do the so-called clutter in our house, maybe you'd have some more readers."
Ouch. And I mean ouch like you just stepped barefooted on a Lego that was left on the floor.
So when something is "missing" at our house, unpleasant conversations arise.
Conventional wisdom says to minimize the discomfort in unpleasant conversations, at least one participant should create an environment of SAFETY--where a civil discussion can occur and where both parties defenses remain lowered.
A safe environment entails listening, questions, and a two-way discussion instead of a one-way monologue.
That's all well and good, but in my experience, that is only a good way to get started. To seal the deal, let me challenge you to do this if you find yourself entering into an unpleasant conversation.
Ask yourself this simple question, "How do I think the other person will receive my information?"
Will they feel like a VICTIM?
Victims believe "It's not my fault." Victims are passive participants, so if you think that your conversation will result in someone playing the victim card, don't worry about placing blame about the issue at hand, simply ask them to become an active participant in finding a solution.
Seeking their input on the resolution empowers victims, which makes them less likely to play that card again.
With Christy, I ask this question: "Where would you like me to put this?" (I realize that is a loaded question, and often she does tell me where to put it, but it does include her in the decision.)
Will they paint me as a VILLAIN?
Often, you will hear, "It's all your fault!" People create villains to assign intent or motive. It's easier to explain someone else's behavior rather than take responsibility for your own. If you think you will be painted as a villain in an unpleasant conversation, you don't have to counter it by painting yourself as some kind of hero.
Instead, be human. Be open. Be honest.
With Christy, I ask this question: "I don't want to make you angry. Why would I want you to be angry? My intent was to just clean up before our guests came over." (I usually make her angry anyway, but explaining my true intent, shows that my intentions were honorable and not villainous.)
Will they feel HELPLESS about resolving the issue?
The Helpless say, "There's nothing I can do." If you have to confront someone about an issue they had a part in, but you think that they will plead "helpless" or "innocent," what they are really telling you is that they may be fearful of leaving their lane.
Feeling helpless involves a "fixed" mindset, which limits risk and learning. Feeling helpless often assumes there is no alternative.
With Christy, I may ask: "We seem to be at odds on this one. Here's my thought for a mutual solution. What do you think about that?" (Also a loaded question, but usually effective.)
Difficult conversations revolve around delivering negative or unwanted information to another party. These conversations sit atop a powder key of potential emotion which adds to the trickiness.
The VICTIM-VILLIAN-HELPLESS approach will allow leaders to defuse the situation without throwing away their message. And in this case, I'm all for that.
Want some more insight into navigating these conversations? Check out my webinar here!