I listened to Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone et al. on audio about
five years ago, and I listened again recently. I've said it before, and
I'll say it again: everyone who communicates with human beings needs to
read/listen to this book. I mean, how often do you get a chance to find
out about human interactions from a bunch of Harvard researchers?
you've ever had a simple conversation go awry or if you've ever had a
confrontation get out of control, this book will likely end up being a
great resource for you. Douglas Stone and the other brainy Harvard authors take motivations,
emotions and identity out and dissect them for a better understanding
of why people act and react the way they do in difficult conversations,
both at work and at home. This book will help with professional
interactions, with bringing up tough issues with your spouse or partner
and even with friends and kids.
For me, the most useful parts of this book were:
focusing on the "and" stance: replacing "but" with "and," and acknowledging that two things can be true simultaneously
contribution versus blame: admitting your own contributions to a
situation and asking for others' contributions, exclusive of blame
starting from the third conversation: approaching a situation from a
neutral, curious stance rather than from one's own point of view
focusing on going into conversations from a questioning stance and
sincere desire to understand the other party rather than proving one's
own point of view
Many of the techniques Doug Stone et al.
recommend are rather advanced--they won't come easily or feel natural
the first time. However, trying one or two new things in low-risk
situations (with your kids, for example, versus with your boss) is a
pretty easy way to give their suggestions a try.
Has anyone else tried these? What were your results?
What do you think about change in your organization? Do you believe folks thrive on change or do you think folks are programmed to hate change?
My response is a Holtzian "it depends." Each person has a unique relationship with change and with the idea of change, and a lot of the programmed response is generational. Last week, I wrote about generational differences in the workplace and talked about Barbara Braunstein's approach to these differences in her audio series, Dealing with Different, Diverse and Difficult People. The stereotype that people are afraid of change is relevant for a reason in the same way that all stereotypes are; it's based on a seed of truth. But why do we fear change, really?
As Ms. Braunstein points out, people's attitude toward change varies with their upbringing and the major events that influenced their lives. For example, Radio Agers (those born before 1946) grew up having experienced the Great Depression, either in real time or in its shadow afterwards. They can have a scarcity mentality, and they can bring that scarcity mentality to the workplace. They might fear change for a good reason: this huge influencing event taught them that when things change, they change for the worse and stay that way for a long time. They learned that when jobs are lost, they might stay lost for years on end. In short, Radio Agers have damn good reasons for fearing change.
This is not to say that they can't change; they can. However, if you're asking a Radio Ager to change, you might use words like "slight shift" or "tweak" instead of "major overhaul." Radio Agers deal best with change in small steps; a massive overhaul is hugely threatening to them. Remember, too, that Radio Agers were brought up with values of loyalty and respect for authority. If it's some young 22-year-old fresh out of business school who is giving the company a facelift, a Radio Ager might feel like his own loyal, long-term contributions to the company aren't being valued.
If, however, a Generation X'er (born between 1964 and 1976) is asked to change, you'll probably find that she will embrace it wholeheartedly. She might ask what you're trying to accomplish with the change or which direction you want to go in. Generation X'ers grew up with television and watched its messages change over the years. They grew up watching their parents promise to be together forever and then fall victim to the 64% divorce rate. They lived through the dot com bubble and saw promises of permanent riches fall by the wayside. They watched their parents work their whole lives, promising themselves to play later, when they retired, and then saw their parents pass away before they got the chance to enjoy their lives. Generation X'ers do not believe in permanence; if you try to tell them the company will never change, they'll balk at the idea or roll their eyes.
If you've seen the musical Avenue Q, this is the musical of Generation X. If you want to understand Generation X, go see this show, and you'll walk away understanding the motivations, ennui and belief system of this generation. The musical ends with "It's Only for Now," a song devoted to the celebration of change and non-permanence in the universe. Your hair? It's only for now. George Bush? It's only for now. Your job? It's only for now.
Yes, your job. Generation X'ers won't believe you if you promise them ten years in the company. So if you go in with a message of change, you'll probably have more Gen X'ers on board than if you proclaimed the opposite. If every Gen X'er doesn't embrace change, they at least do recognize its powerful force in their lives and have come to accept it with a type of fatalism.
So it does depend. What have your workers already lived through in their lives? That will tell you how they approach change.
There is a skill that many, many busy folks lack. A skill that if they could master, their lives would be easier,
simpler and more rewarding. A skill that would reduce waste, get rid of headaches, improve their sex lives and give them time for that candlelit bath they keep promising themselves. A skill that could help them to wake up feeling refreshed, energized and ready to face their day. It would benefit them more than a massage, a babysitter for the evening or an hour of yoga. And yet, most women (and quite a few men) refuse to learn this skill. They don't think it's possible to have.
What is it?
The power to say "no." A simple "no" to the extra project, to staying late at work, to being in charge of the bake sale, to helping a friend move. Why is this so hard for us?
I believe it's because we tend to feel genuinely excited about helping out. We're generous folks and social creatures. We want to help out the boss and finish up the project. We want to support our kid's school with brownies. We genuinely want to move our friend's sectional sofa across town. Human beings are social creatures, and one of our primary forms of interaction is doing favors for others. We recognize that we are part of an interactive society; we help each other.
All that being said, in our busy lives, we are miserable when we don't set boundaries for ourselves. Our true values and priorities will be lost if we don't set some limits on the activities we say "yes" to. I recommend taking a week to plot out exactly how you spend your time. Track it like a lawyer. For every 15 minutes of your day, make a note of how you spend it. How much time do you spend on your best client's account? How much time do you spend prospecting? How much time building relationships online? How much interacting with your kids? How much exercising? How much catching up with friends? How much on your favorite hobby?
After a week, you might be surprised to see that your stated priorities don't match how you actually spend your time. Are you spending a disproportionate amount of time with one client or one energy-sucking friend or activity instead of doing things that support your business and personal goals?
OK, now that we've looked at how we're actually spending our time, here's the quick and easy way to say "no" when you need to. For example, your boss asks you to take on a new project you have no interest in, but you still want to be seen as a team player:
Repeat the request:
"So what I'm hearing is that you would like me to take on the Jackson case."
Get more information. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions to find out what kind of commitment you would be making:
"How much extra time would I be committing to? Would this take away from more important clients/activities? Would this include evening and weekend commitments? What skills are required for this? Would I have any support for this?"
Pause. Don't be afraid of silence. Saying an instant "yes" can get you into trouble; taking time to really consider the option makes you look thoughtful.
Say no without apology. If you have a suggestion for an alternate choice more suitable for the project, suggest it, but a firm and assertive, "No, I don't believe I can commit to that right now" is your best phrase for clearing your life of energy clutter.
For women in particular, the first few "no"s can be a bit painful. Truly, the guilt can be overwhelming every time we say "no" when someone asks us. However, you're no good to anyone if you're spread so thin that you don't remember what your priorities in life are. Say "no" and feel good about it--every "no" is more time and focus for your best clients, your personal growth, your kids and your "me" time.
2:15 Communication for Intergenerational differences in the workplace
A review and commentary of a particularly interesting segment of Barbara Braunstein's audio series, Dealing with Different, Diverse and Difficult People. Understanding Radio Agers (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (born between 1947-1964), Generation Xers (1965-1976) and Generation Y/Millennials (1977 and later). Delving into misconceptions, values and ways to motivate each one--now that you understand, don't they seem less difficult?
23:50 Geek Girl Minute: Review of BlogIt!
A review of Typepad's new app, BlogIt, which allows you to post to your Typepad blog, Facebook and Twitter simultaneously, either from within Facebook or from your iPhone. Suh-WHEET!
25:00 Wrap-up Why not recommend Diary to a friend? Send the link via email and spread the word! Visit us at Blubrry.com; email Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org and don't forget to visit the show blog, Talk It Up! during the week, for articles and updates. Thanks for listening!
Provide concise supporting evidence for your one main point
Allow one-third of your allotted time for questions
15:00 Wrap-up Why not recommend Diary to a friend? Send the link via email and spread the word! Visit us at Blubrry.com; email Heidi at email@example.com and don't forget to visit the show blog, Talk It Up! during the week, for articles and updates. Thanks for listening!