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Why conversations can go wrong

'I really wish I’d said…’   

‘If only I hadn’t been so quick to say…’ 

We’ve all been there! 

For something we all do so often, having conversations, particularly the ones that count, can be hard. 

It’s easy to find reasons why conversations are so valuable; 

they create connection with others,  

they allow us to share information and spark thoughts and ideas,  

they help us make decisions,  

they entertain us,  

they focus us,  

they provide a new perspective and challenge our thinking,  

they inspire and motivate us, 

they help us learn. 

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So, with so many great reasons for having conversations, why is it sometimes so difficult to have them? 

Forbes recently shared that “one poll revealed more than 80% of workers are running in fear from at least one scary conversation at work – a conversation they know they need to have but are dreading.”* 

When a conversation is needed, when you know there are important things to be said, there's a chance a few things may happen…  

We overthink it,  

we panic,  

we ‘dumb down’ the importance of the conversation, 

We plan the conversation in so much detail and practice it so much it becomes scripted and unnatural, 

We rush into it, completely unprepared.  

When it comes to having the conversations that count whether at work or at home it’s worth thinking about a few things. 

 

Think ahead 

Think ahead of your conversation and work out the key messages you want to convey. This doesn't need to be scripted but ensures everything you want or need to talk about is discussed. Write down the main things you want to accomplish from the conversation and focus on them. 

 

Listen  

The Cambridge dictionary defines a conversation as:  

‘a talk between two or more people in which thoughts feelings and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information is exchanged.’** 

A conversation is not one-sided find - you should be spending as much time listening as you are talking. 

If you start to feel the conversation is becoming one-sided ask questions to open it up. Try questions like ‘what do you think about…’ or ‘how do you feel about…’ 

 

Be clear  

Small talk (polite conversation about unimportant topics) is a wonderful thing in the right situations. For conversations that count, small talk should be kept to a minimum, this will help keep the conversation focused on the topics you need to cover. It is also worth avoiding unnecessary jargon, so you don’t confuse what it is you're really trying to say. 

 

Be empathic  

You're prepared for this conversation, the person you're talking with isn't. Consider how they may be feeling throughout your conversation and give them time to process it. Explain your thoughts and reasoning so they do can understand your perspective too. 

 

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2021/10/24/how-to-handle-difficult-conversations-at-work/?sh=a38670b45caa

** https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/conversation  

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