Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I grabbed a short interview this morning on a pod cast by Harvard Business Ideacast. Author Holly Weeks was being interviewed about her book Failure to Communicate.

The title of the interview was "Speaking Well in Difficult Situations;" more specifically she was addressing how to handle the tough conversations we sometimes face in the workplace. Here were some of my takeaways.

  1. Have a blueprint (see below) for how to handle tough conversations
  2. Prepare yourself for your own vulnerabilities
A good blueprint is built of three main components.

First, make sure you have clear content; say what you mean, mean what you say and let the words you speak work for you not against you. Even if the message is hard, it's better than masking it. People can tell when we are dancing around issues and the by product of a fuzzy message is that people will start to guess what we are trying to say and most often will guess wrong.

Second, use a neutral tone; make sure all the "non-word" part of communication matches the words you are speaking. Put all the weight on the words so as to avoid confusing the person or people taking in the message. The point here is not just tone of voice but body language, body position, articulation, everything we use in communication minus the words. Think of it as the supporting cast. The words need to be main stage.

And thirdly, utilize temperate phrasing. What this means is to check word choice and sentence design. Stay away from words that can act as triggers or might provoke the other party.

The biggest learning for me, my GUIDE>POST, is to prepare for my own vulnerabilities. If I know that I have certain sensitivities, whether to a person or a topic or tend to take things personally if they have to do with a specific topic etc...prepare for that, think through it, get clarity on what I'm going to do in those circumstances.

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