Difficult conversations with difficult people come in all sorts of situations and circumstances. Often they involve a sensitive topic, and we worry about finding the perfect time and perfect place to approach it.
So how do you engage in a difficult conversation with a difficult person?
The answer is in the heart.
Anything that can be felt can be communicated, and anything that can be communicated can be managed.
My method of Redden Mit h’arzTM, translated from Yiddish, means “speak from the heart.” It can help you keep things positive and productive when entering a difficult conversation with a difficult person.
Speaking from the heart is not about the right time or place but about doing the right thing. It does not need to be role-played or practiced, because it comes straight from the heart.
Here are the fundamentals:
Be available: listen without having an agenda or assumptions.
Don’t think Here we go again—I will never get a chance to speak.
Be attentive: listen deeply to everything that is being said. Don’t be dismissive.
Don’t think Same as always—he always has to be right .
Be articulate: Repeat what was said, with vivid and great articulation.
Make it so vivid and expressive that your partner says, “Wow, you get me. I wish I had put it that way.”
Don’t think I’ve heard this a thousand times before.
Next, Acquiesce: Let your partner know you understand his side completely.
Don’t think I can never have a say because he won’t let me state my point.
Acquire: Tell your partner all the things that you’ve just learned from listening to him. Sincerely let him know what you have learned from the conversation.
Don’t think He always thinks he knows everything.
By now, you have placed your difficult conversation with a difficult person in a different context.
You have made room for acknowledgment, appreciation, and approval.
Speak from the heart. Open the space for being heard.
When you speak from the heart the communication is about the other, not so much about you.
When you speak from the heart it is not about reacting but about being interactive.
When you speak from the heart it’s not about frustration but about staying engaged and connected.
When you speak from the heart there are no assumptions or judgment. You are just relating on a deeper level.
When in a bind, allow the heart to lead and let the mind follow.
Lead from Within: In business, as in life, difficult conversations happen—with employees, peers, bosses, suppliers and customers, and with a partner or spouse, children, friends. To ignore or handle them badly can bring irreversible damage. Let the heart speak where difficulty resides.