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The best games are the ones where the suspense lasts until the final minutes. The excitement and anticipation on the field and in the stands permeate the atmosphere. Each player is giving their best, keeping the ball in play as long as possible…Five, 4, 3, 2, 1 … the ending whistle blows.

After disputing such an intense game, players are proud of themselves, as they should be. Some may shed a tear when they lose, but all those engaged in the game respectfully shake hands with their worthy opponent, nodding in approval.

It’s about keeping the game in play

Plainly put, keeping the game in play is the key to winning a match. Unfortunately, in the organizational quagmires I’ve been called in to untangle over the years, players often get caught in a mess by choosing less than productive strategies such as:

– The thunderous raising of the voice, or more often, the deafening silence of avoidance.

– Imposing a unilateral point of view.

– Making demeaning statements, cutting the other person down to size.

These unfortunate tactics sadly remind me of soccer game hooliganism. Each person walks away with exactly what they came in with: Anger, resentment, disappointment, bewilderment. What does it solve?

On the other hand, a genuine conversation uses a similar approach as a match played at the highest level: You engage with the objective of keeping the game in play until a solution is hatched!  This last statement may be worth repeating…  

“Until a solution is hatched!” – Five practical steps for challenging conversations

The disagreement may be strong, laced with the accumulated resentments of the past.  The temptation to walk out may be hard to resist, but resist you can.

Ask yourself: Does the old approach work? Do I desire a different result?

If you answered “no” to the first question and “yes” to the second, these 5 practical steps can get you started on your way to hatching that solution:

1) ” I just heard you say…..” My observation

2) “I feel angry” My feeling.

3) “I’m thinking that if we don’t address this situation, we all lose.”  My thought.

4) “I’m proposing to put some of my people to work on mapping and improving the process.”  My want.

5) “What do you think?” My respectful request. “ Are you willing to send one or two of your people to work out a solution?” A follow up to my request.

If I put it that way, it may be harder for my counterpart to come back with accusations, or for me to walk off the field in disgust.

Try it on for size with a trusted family member or advisor

Because most of us haven’t been taught this game changing conversation skill at home or even in school, I encourage my clients to start applying these steps to a simple disagreement they may have with a trusted friend or family member.    

The disagreement may seem insignificant, something you would normally shrug off.  Instead, think of it as your investment in hatching a needed solution and creating common ground.

I look forward to sharing with you critical ways to refine your conversation technique in my weekly blog posts. 

In the meantime, share this post with friends and colleagues. You can also connect with me on social media for more on genuine conversations.

Until next week!