Difficult conversation mistakes are as common as dirt.  Sarah Green did a great job identifying 9 of the most common mistakes in Difficult Conversations: Nine Common Mistakes – Harvard Business Review.  Sarah based her presentation on Failure to Communicate, a terrific book by Holly Weeks.  This is an excellent slideshow that highlights some of the key points in Holly’s Weeks book Failure to Communicate (which I’ll write more about another time).   One of (if not the) best things that Holly highlights is the range of responses that we have to conflict in a difficult conversation.  One’s response can range from passive (where one basically gives in to avoid conflict) to aggressive (where one attacks).  Neither approach is particularly productive but the midpoint — where one respects the other person and one respects oneself — is really where we should all strive to be.  In Sarah Green’s slideshow, Sarah shows the range of responses to a thwarting ploy — where the other person resorts to lying, threatening, stonewalling, crying, sarcasm, shouting, silence, accusing, or taking offense.  Again the best response is not to be passive or aggressive, but to respond directly to the ploy.

React to thwarting ploys

Being able to have difficult conversations is one of the factors that separates good managers from not-so-good managers.  Sarah Green’s slideshow and Holly Week’s book are excellent aides to having difficult conversations in a productive way.