Argggh – it’s all too easy, particularly with friends and family, but also with work colleagues and supervisors.
You need something to be done, or you want to give some feedback or (constructive?!) criticism about the project your team was working on being substandard, your boss not giving you enough support, the washing up not being done properly, the socks being left on the floor, the cat not being fed, and yet, when you do it, you get the person you’re talking to leaping down your throat, taking offence, feeling resentful. The conversation backfires and ends up in argument or ill feeling.
There is a way to have successful conversations, revolutionise your dealings at work and at home, and get you the results you’re after, each and every time you open your mouth, (and give yourself an easier life because of it!)
It’s all in your approach, and your approach, is all in your state of mind going into the conversation.
All too often we approach conversations, with a defined outcome in mind: we want to make a point about the fact the washing up hasn't been done as well as we would like it; we want to make our colleague feel ashamed that they didn’t put in as much effort to the project as the rest of the team.
We want a certain outcome, and that ‘want’, that ‘need’, tends to affect the way what we say comes across - more often than not backfiring in our direction:
- Our partner feels resentful that, even though he does the washing up every night, it’s not good enough or appreciated.
- Our colleague feels angry and boxed into a corner when actually there was a good reason for her inability to put in as much effort on that particular project as she would have liked.
Three MAGIC questions
There’s a ‘charge’ attached to almost everything we say, and that charge normally comes from a need (to feel vindicated), or a fear (of retaliation, reproach), or a desire (for a certain outcome).
Conversely, being what I call, ‘charge neutral’ means you have NO attachment to the outcome of the conversation.
Now this may seem impossible to do - especially when you’re really annoyed about the standard of the washing up (noticing a theme here?), or let down by a colleague - but next time you feel the urge to say something potentially challenging or difficult, which could result in someone feeling ‘got at’ or resentful (and the conversation backfiring on you):
Check in with yourself – and ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I trying to make a point?
2. Am I trying to make myself feel better and the other person feel worse?
3. Am I afraid of what they might say so trying to manipulate their response to my request?
You might find that when you’ve asked yourself the magic questions, you actually have nothing to say because you can see that saying something in the way you planned is to satisfy your own needs/fears/need to control. OR you may decide there’s a better way of going about the conversation entirely.
So rather than heading straight in with the jugular – ‘I hate the way you don’t rinse the dishes after you’ve washed them, they taste of soap’ (yes, a major pet hate of mine and potential source of conflict if not handled delicately), you might choose a time when you’re both relaxed, say, ‘can I talk to you about something?’, and in a reasonable, charge neutral voice explain what you’re finding difficult.
The beauty of charge neutral
More often than not, when we say something charge neutral, we can say almost ANYTHING and NOT get the back up of the person we’re speaking to.
When we sound needy, fearful, annoyed, people immediately raise their defences and protect their territory.
When we sound unattached, charge neutral and open to hearing things from the other person’s point of view, BEFORE putting forward our own, people invariably respond positively, and even the hardest subjects can be broached without friction.
Try it, you might be surprised by how you’re able to approach difficult subjects with ease, and get the outcome you desired, WITHOUT pushing for the outcome you desired in your approach.
Try it this week and let’s hear your charge neutral success stories in the comments below….!