It’s normal for families to find things they disagree about, especially when everyone is cooped up together at home! Whether you’re discussing the latest news story or something as simple as whose turn it is to take out the trash, disagreements can happen, making things a bit uncomfortable in some cases.
In the book “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High,” authors Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny and Ron McMillan detail several steps for having a productive discussion in situations where parties do not see eye-to-eye over a particular subject or event. These tips can be extremely helpful when talking to family, friends and colleagues whose perspectives differ from yours.
Try out these strategies when you find yourself engaged in a crucial conversation with friends or family at your family’s outdoor Thanksgiving celebration, on a holiday Zoom call or hanging out in the living room.
Focus on the dialogue’s purpose. Remember why the conversation began, and identify what you really want to get out of it. If you didn’t start the discussion, try to engage the person who did to figure out their goal.
Find a mutual place. Does the person you’re speaking with believe that you care about their goals? Make sure to establish respect on both sides, then come up with a mutual purpose of the conversation.
Start with facts. Offer observable, non-controversial statements about the situation or topic before offering your conclusion. Be sure to separate facts from your interpretation of events.
Pose “Do-Don’t” statements. Tell the person you’re speaking to what you are not trying to do, followed by the more productive goal. For example, you might say, “I don’t want to suggest that your experience isn’t valid. I would like to find common ground to better understand each other.”
Ask questions then mirror. Instead of assuming, ask your colleague questions to understand where they’re coming from. Then, mirror their statements to show you heard their perspective.
Decide how to move forward. Where will you go after the conversation? Make sure all parties understand where you are leaving the issue.
Know when to stop. This is critical, especially if a hot discussion flares up at the dinner table. If respect is no longer present in the conversation, or things are getting heated, pause, and return to it later if necessary.
Use these tips to help you not only navigate tough discussions with your family, but also with your friends and colleagues as well. Mastering the art of “Crucial Conversations” can help you feel more comfortable and confident when disagreements arise in any situation.
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