Difficult Conversations and What To Do When It Isn't Going Well


113: Conversations and What To Do When They Aren’t Going Well


This week we are talking about conversations that aren’t going very well and what to do about them. We’ve all had those moments when it doesn’t seem like conversations are going well and it feels like a door is closing or a veil is coming down and covering the moment.  We all seem to know when it’s happening or at least have a sense of when it’s happening.

First, let’s define what we mean by not going well; if you’re a boss, it could be the person you’re talking to seems to be becoming defensive or maybe you’re the one becoming defensive and this is typically when we know that a conversation isn’t going well. There are a lot of reasons that they don’t go well such as, you may have gotten new information you weren’t expecting, the other person may seem angry or they are crying…or any number of options. But the content of conversations isn’t as important as how to come back into connection. Essentially,  conversations not going well can be defined by a lack of connection.

We’ve all tried different strategies too. Such as, taking a break, overriding what is occurring, continuing to repeat ourselves, becoming argumentative or doing the ‘ole “we’ll agree to disagree”. None of these work well by the way.

So, what do we do then? Well, the first key is to recognize that most times when conversations aren’t going well it is due to some level of fear, which creates defensiveness. And, it is also worth knowing that we have different fear patterns too besides just the old fight and flight response. You can see these demonstrated really well by co-host Katie Hendricks in her fear-melters video.  The thing to know here is that people do become defensive and we don’t need to become afraid ourselves in the face of another person’s defensive. Sometimes the best thing we can do in that moment is to notice and then, reveal and pause and name what is happening for us. For example, “I just noticed that my breath stopped and I feel scared.” If that seems weird to you, it is. That’s why we’re doing this show. The key point here is that defensive can arise and we forget about this when it seems like a conversation is going south. Fear drives our defensiveness.

Here are the bullet points for bringing a conversation back online:

  • First, acknowledge what is going on inside of you FIRST. It seems so easy to want to point out that the other person may be experiencing something and this often doesn’t work very well.
  • Then, here is my favorite thing to say: “Hmm….I don’t feel like we’re connecting. Can we start over?”
  • The key here is to genuinely start over and source curiosity
  • Be clear about what the goal of the conversation is and avoid over-simplifying issues. Meaning, it is easy to skip over the other person’s view and that sometimes situations are more complex that we want to recognize.
  • Be sure to listen for accuracy. Are you hearing them correctly? We often think that we are but often we aren’t. Reflecting back to the person by saying, “so what I hear you saying is…”. The person will tell you if you are tracking with them accurately or not.
  • Be clear about what is that you want and look for the win, win, win.

What are the many ways that you’ve brought a conversation up from the depths when it has been going south? What has worked for you?

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