As an intern supervisor and project leader on a small team; I’m always looking for ways to practice the many skills I have learned during the leadership and management trainings that I have attended in the past. Several recent opportunities have given me the chance to practice my skills of having a Challenging Conversation with others.
One of these opportunities began a few months ago when my wife and I noticed the neighbor downstairs has been playing his movies and music at an increased volume and frequency. “He must have purchased a new home theater system,” I thought to myself. On the slight chance that the situation would correct itself, I decided to ignore it… for now. Unfortunately, the frequency and volume of playing his music and movies not only continued, it had predictably gotten worse. Now, there was a different type of noise rumbling from the unit below. It didn’t sound like music or a movie; he was now playing video games on his new home theater system. Something must be done about this noise.
I’m not usually one who embraces the opportunity to have a challenging conversation with someone, but my sanity and the thirst for quietness is a good enough reason to force me into action. Thoughts that have come to my mind about this situation have included:
“How did the situation get to this?”
“How could I have prevented it?”
“Was there anything I did to prompt it?”
“What if the situation gets worse?”
“How do I approach my neighbor in a non-threating and non-confrontational way?”
“What if I don’t get the response I am looking for from my neighbor, what will I do then?”
“Is there something I’ve learned in the past about how to have challenging conversations?”
Fortunately, the answer to my last question is “Yes!” I attended a class a few years ago on how to have Challenging Conversations and they shared a 5-step model for having those conversations.
S – State your concern directly
P – Probe for information to gain deeper understanding
E – Engage each other through whole-hearted listening
A – Attend to body language
K – Keep forward-focused when possible
Challenging Conversations by Kalish, Erin, and Patricia Zigarmi. The Ken Blanchard Companies and Workplace Connections, LLC, 2007.
When the next opportunity presents itself, I plan to use this model during the conversation with my neighbor. I invite you to mark your calendars for my next blog posting on July 23rd when I explain how I used each step of the model and the result of my challenging conversation. I’d also love to hear in the comments below, examples of your own challenging conversation techniques that have led to successful outcomes.