The ‘difficult conversation’ is something that, as managers, we all have to face up to at times in our careers. Whether it is having to tell someone that their performance is not up to scratch, having to share changes to the structure, process or work environment or let someone go, it can be a daunting prospect whatever your level of experience.
Why do we find it daunting? The answer lies in how you talk to yourself.
Your self-talk is the voices in your head; we all have them. You ask questions and say things about people, about the situation or yourself. These voices will either be helpful or unhelpful.
Is your self-talk working for you or against you?
We are great imagineers; we play out given situations in our mind. We search our memory banks looking for examples from the past; we look to the future playing out the conversation with the person.
You imagine their reaction. You can almost see them vividly kicking off, crying, shouting or arguing. You remember similar situations and how others may have behaved/reacted to this type of news. This imagined future will create emotions and will position our state of mind. Do we see this in a calm, rational way or how most of us see it: as difficult, challenging or potentially confrontational? Our imagination creates the story, the narrative of how we see the conversation going. It is this story that informs how we prepare. If we have imagined a difficult conversation, we are likely to go into it with a level of emotion, expectation and tension. Hardly the best preparation!
What can we do to prepare ourselves for these types of situations?
The great thing about your self-talk is that you can control it. You just need to programme it in the right way. If you find yourself in an unhelpful mindset, the simplest way to change that mindset is to ask yourself three questions:
1. What could you say that might be more helpful?
2. What memories could you recall that might be more helpful?
3. What future could you imagine that might be more helpful?
These questions are part of the Thinking Focus Self-Talk Model, a mental model designed to help you to find ‘ingredients’ to create a more helpful mindset. You can harness the helpful mindset to prepare yourself better for the conversation you need to have.
We believe that individuals, teams and business units underperform. Not because they want to, not because they intend to, but because they can’t get out of their own way.
This may not be down to them; it could be the culture or work environment. Our experiences shape our mindset and work habits, often causing people to get stuck.