“If your heart sets out to do good things, things will only get better” Sheng-Lin Andrew Tseng. 

Imagine you’re in a heated conversation and the other person says something that really hits a nerve. Your mind races, the hairs on the back of your neck are up and that little voice in your head tells you to “get your own back” or “hurt them” just as they’ve hurt you. This is where things go wrong.

When we lose sight of our original intentions for entering the conversation or for some reason our intentions change and become anything other than ‘good’, we soon find ourselves locked into a downward spiral.

Let me try to illustrate this - a few years ago I was training a group and one individual was extremely disruptive.  He had read the whole course content the day before attending and he liked to pipe up and demonstrate his superior knowledge. Frequently.

After a couple of days of his disruptive behaviour, I could see the other learners were becoming frustrated and if I’m honest I was finding him annoying and disrespectful.  Knowing I had the support of the group, I was tempted to ‘put him in his place’ or ‘win’ with a few clever or cutting comments. 

But I challenged myself and asked “what do I really want?” and “how can my own behaviour help me to achieve that?”

Did I really want to ‘win’ or embarrass him? What would that achieve? I might feel good for a while, but in the long term it wouldn’t help me or the other learners in any way. I had to be honest – the part of me that wanted to ‘win’ was just spiteful. Instead I focused on understanding my ‘real’ intention: I needed to get all learners through the course, passing to a set standard and in such a way that everyone got the most from it.

How could I achieve my goal and keep everyone happy? I came up with a solution that allowed him to use his advanced knowledge to coach the other learners and help out with some of the exercises.  He became my ‘right hand man’ for the week. This way he wasn’t derailing the training and ruining it for the others, but he was also getting something from it and being made to feel valued. Win-win.

Next time things get heated and you’re feeling frustrated, take my advice – look inwards and ask “what do I really want?” and “how can my own behaviour get me moving towards that goal?”

If you’re prepared to be brutally honest with yourself, you’ll be able to unlock one of the secrets to more meaningful and productive crucial conversations

By Jane Hodgson, Management Development Trainer at GRA.

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