Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How to have confrontational conversations.

Confront means “to be with someone, to meet face to face.” It doesn’t necessarily mean fighting with another person. It means getting on the same side of the table and investigating the issue together.
Confrontation is simply a search for the truth. The first step is to own your piece of the truth and then open up to other truths.

To prepare for a confrontational conversation with someone:

• Get clear on what you want, why you want it, and who you want it from.

• Clarify what's happened, how you felt about it, and what's at stake.

• Consider how an objective third party might view the situation.

• Examine your contribution to the problem that you're bringing to the table.

• Examine your feelings about the confrontation. How long has it been building up and how long have you been postponing it?

• Write your opening statement, refine it and read it out loud. Hear the words coming out of your mouth. Keep working on it until you get it exactly right. Give specific examples, but not too many or you'll bog the other person down in needless detail.

During the conversation:

• Make your opening statement and define reality the way you see it. State the issue in the first person in abbreviated form: “This is what I saw happen, this is how I felt about it, this is what's at stake for me, and this is what I want to resolve in this conversation.”

• Ask the other person to give their version of reality. Let them know you may ask a lot of probing questions. Make sure they know that you fully understand and acknowledge their position and interests.

• Identify what each of you learned during the conversation so far. Ask questions like, “Where are we now? What's needed for resolution? What was left unsaid that needs saying? Have we moved off our original positions? What's our new understanding? Given this, how can we move forward from here? What might get in our way? How will we get past that? ”

• Make a new agreement and set up a way to hold each other accountable for making it work. Ask, "When should I follow up with you?"

The key to successful confrontation is asking questions rather than trying to build your case. Ask only questions after you've made your opening statement. Don’t go back to building your case no matter what the other person says. That will only put them on the defensive and send the message that your mind is closed rather than open.

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