Successful people connect with others by taking risks. They communicate effectively because they welcome difficult conversations. This is a very difficult skill to master, because most of us avoid difficult conversations. But if you want to connect, you must dare to move in the opposite direction—and learn to embrace these tough dialogues. Here’s how.
- Practice by identifying a relationship that needs work. What conversations have you been avoiding? Where are the pressure points that need attention? I learned how important this was when I represented Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose pro deal fell apart because we didn’t have the tough conversation around questions like, “Are you ready to look the players you recruited in the eyes and tell them you are leaving for the pros? Are you prepared to walk into your athletic director’s office, who has supported you for years, and tell him ‘I’m moving on?’”
- Name the issue. Make it simple and to the point. This can take a lot of upfront work. As I covered in an earlier blog, the hardest thing to do is to pare down you point to a single sentence or priority. Work ahead of the conversation to get to the essence of what you are trying to say.
- When breaking down the issue, remember the acronym SBI (Situation, behavior and impact.) The situation is the context for your relationship. The behavior is the specific action that is happening—or not happening—to cause the conflict. Impact is the results of the first two; it answers the question, “What’s at stake?
- Ditch the script. Invite your counterpart to respond. Really listen. Remain open, and practice observing your defensiveness without judgment. Ask questions. Openness is an invitation to greater trust.
- End with clarity. Ask, “What have we learned? Where do we stand now? How do we move forward?” This is your call to action or summons to go forth in a more authentic partnership.
For more tips on mastering this No. 1 rule for effective communication, look for great resources like Susan Scott’s book, “Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time.” Remember: Because our relationships are rooted in conversations, the quality of our relationships depend on the quality of our conversations. People who want to be successful want to connect through strong relationships, and this goal requires engaging in effective communication.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Rule No. 1 for effective communication is to embrace difficult conversations. If you want to go swimming, you’re going to get wet, and that’s the same deal with building strong connections with others that lead to success. Choose a tip from this blog post to make your next difficult conversation a steppingstone to greater connection.
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.