Direct language vital in "tough-stuff" conversations
In "tough-stuff conversations" managers should be clear in their communication, clear in their intent, and get to the point by using direct language, say authors Darren Hill, Alison Hill and Dr Sean Richardson.
Direct language and clarityHill, Hill and Richardson say that "too often the tough situations are avoided or amplified because communication is unclear".
"When we are having robust conversations at work, the language we use can personalise a situation very quickly... in the tough-stuff conversations, personalisation is a fast track to heightened conflict," they say.
"The best way of depersonalising a conversation or a point that you need to make with someone is to speak in terms of specific behaviours rather than in terms of broad traits."
It is important to identify behaviour rather than traits, the authors say, because "the definition of what constitutes a certain trait varies from person to person".
"There is a danger, particularly in a tough-stuff conversation, that you can be naming a trait, and the other person is sitting there nodding in agreement, but their agreement is based on a different definition from yours.
"Making sure that you speak in terms of behavioural language when having a tough-stuff conversation is incredibly important - it means that you are both operating a shared understanding."
Managers should avoid talking about someone's "work ethic", for example, and instead specify the behaviours they are looking for, such as "completes tasks to agreed timeframes", or "looks for extra work when their own workload has eased off".
Hill, Hill and Richardson say achieving clarity can take time, and getting to the point where a manager is confident that both they and the employee have a shared understanding of expectations "can sometimes feel laborious and time-consuming".
Being able to achieve a greater level of clarity and understanding can "sometimes involve asking the right questions", they say.
"Questions, such as 'In your own words, can you tell me where we go from here?' or 'How do you interpret what we have been talking about?' or even 'What are the next steps?', will give you feedback about how the other person is interpreting the situation.
"They can help ensure that you are both on the same page, and help clarify any confusion or misinterpretation if you are not."
Non-verbal communication"Non-verbal communication makes a huge difference to how a message is both sent and received," the authors say.
"We can achieve great levels of clarity through our language; there is little doubt that an array of well-positioned phrases and key words will get us better outcomes in crucial conversations," they say.
"But we can undo all of this with an incorrect or inopportune use of our eyes, hands or body posture at a critical point."
In making a point, managers will direct their conversation via four points of non-verbal communication using their eyes:
"The single greatest effect that using the three-point method in the tough stuff achieves is creating a sense of distance from the issue... It is incredibly powerful in achieving behaviour change," they say.
Dealing with the Tough Stuff is available for purchase in HR Daily's online store.