Hacker Moments: Phil On Tough Conversations


We've all had to have tough conversations. Inspired by a recent HBR article by Joseph Grenny, Phil talks through how to best approach these conversations (and why it's best not to avoid them).

1. Get your motives right

2. Get your emotions right

3. Gather the facts

4. Get curious


Ian Hopkinson: And here's a word from Phil

Phil Richards: There is probably no one listening right now that hasn't had to have a tough conversation at some point. Often people avoid these situations like the plague. Joseph Grenny in a recent HBR article outlines four key things to do before having one of those tough conversations.

Number one, get your motives right, that is don't maintain the issue. Avoid being driven by what other people think, work out what you really want. For yourself, for the other person, for the relationship, and for the stakeholders.

Number two, get emotions right, change the story, change the emotions that's how it works the story triggers the perceptions, and that causes our emotions to be generated within our body and our mind. Think about your state before entering into contemplation on the issue or the conversation itself.

Number three, gather the facts, share them confirm them, and then lead to a conclusion. In other words, engage, understand and decide, don't judge.

Number four, get curious. Curiosity maintains flexibility. You'll be coming from your own perceptions and angle. So it's important to be confident in your decision, but also be able to be persuaded otherwise it's that second perspective kicking in. We tend to come from a place of separateness. It is a lot about identity, any conversation that maintains that separateness inherently reduces connection, and consequently communication and influence the very things we need to have a successful tough conversation. We all go through a period of thinking independently and defending our position. It is a position or role, talking to another position or role in that case, e.g boss and subordinate or CEO and Manager. Even listening to the terminology for those positions indicates some degree of hierarchy or separateness. We need to get to the stage of being fully aware of the stories we tell in our heads and how often that reinforces the separateness. Become aware of the stories, suspend the stories, and then talk human. If your defences are not up if you don't come from a place of superiority or self imposed power, then it is more likely you will not trigger the other party to become defensive.

Humans communicate, not roles or technology. I believe the biggest issue with tough conversations, is the degree to which the person initiating the conversation itself, knows themselves. Sort yourself first and tough conversations aren't.

My name is Phil Richards.

You're listening to Human Hackers.



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