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3 Steps to having that conversation that you are dreading, today

Did you wake up today with a work situation hanging over you head?

Does it come from something that you just can’t “let go”, that you should have dealt with sooner?  Did you tell someone “it’s all good”, or ” it’s no big deal”, but that wasn’t true.

You need to deal with it, but you really don’t want to.  You hope whatever happened won’t happen again, and that you will just “get over it”.   But, if it does, today could end better than it started.  Let’s break this down together:

Here’s three steps to resolve this thing that’s weighing on you.

Step 1: Clarify your thoughts

Write out what happened, and what you are upset about, and what you want to happen because of it.  This is so you can get your thoughts straight, not to use as “ammunition” or “keeping track of wrongs”. When you are done, you’re going to delete it.  But grab pencil and paper, find a quiet spot, and write out:
1. What happened
2. How you feel about it
3. What would make it “better”

The last one is important, because you have to think about what outcome you want.
Here are some examples of “what would make it better”, from my experience…

  • I want to know you will send me your status reports on-time, without my asking
  • I want to be heard, and for you to see how your actions effect me
  • I want to explain why that thing you thought was “small” was really “big” to me, and why it upset me
  • I want you to know why I feel disrespected when you <fill in the blank>
  • I want you to stop doing <fill in the blank>

The key here is to be  as direct and clear as possible about all three things.  This is why writing it down is so important, because the act of writing it forces your brain to clarify it.  Spend a few minutes on this, then go to Step 2.

Step 2: Arrange a time to chat

Send them this email:

Hey <their name>,

There’s something that’s been nagging at me, that I should have chatted with you about earlier, but need to deal with it today.  Can we chat for 30m before the end of the day?

<your name>

You gotta get a time on the books to talk about it.  Once you do it, your mind will start racing about everything you need to say, about what you want to get out of it, etc.  Even when you feel that rise of panic, let me tell you, you’re doing the right thing.  You can’t solve this over email, you need to have this conversation.  No matter what happens during it, you will feel better knowing that you faced the situation and did something, rather than nothing.  Remember, “Hope is not a strategy”.  You can’t simply hope things will get better, or that people will read your mind, you must take action.  This is that action.

Step 3: Speak directly and clearly to another human being

Have the discussion.  Start with a framework of…

1. “Thanks for your time today.  Here’s what’s bothering me.  I want to clear this up and move forward.”
2. You tell the story of what happened
3. You tell the story of how it made you feel
4. You tell what the outcome is you’re looking for
5. You stop and listen, and engage in a meaningful dialog

You might think you must “hold firm” to make sure you get the outcome you want.  Nope!  The goal is NOT to get the outcome you’re looking for!

The goal is for you to have a honest, direct conversation about something that needs to be dealt with out in the open.

The reason you wrote down the outcome you want is to have a clear, direct place to start.  But, as the person talks, you will probably change what you want, and might even look for the (yup, I’m going to say it!) “Win-Win” solution.  (Sorry, I hate those “businessly words” too, but I couldn’t resist!)
There is no “magic formula” for this, but if you do this, you’re opening the door to direct and clear communication, which is invaluable.  This is what’s going to keep you from “erupting” someday when you “just can’t take it any more”, and that won’t be good for you, for them, or for the company.

So, what conversations are you dreading that you really need to deal with today?

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