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5 Questions to Reframe a Difficult Conversation

Emotional and social intelligence are crucial for growth and a successful working culture in today’s day and age.
These are skills. Some people are born with them, others will learn them through determination, rethinking their mindset, their communication, and their general coping mechanisms…and it is doable. Because it is the attitude that beats talent!

The way we communicate with others and how we are dealing with conflict is crucial for finding solutions when we are working on something with other human beings.
Operation means conflict – about different things that have to be “moved” within a group with different understandings and interests, different experience and different handling by a variety of personalities.
The good thing is, that conflict creates energy for problem-solving processes.
So, we should not try to avoid conflict, and rather navigate it right.

If we are successful or not in solving problems with others is dependent on how we come across.
It’s less about WHAT we say than it is about HOW we say it.

Here is the important distinction of conflict situations:
We have to differentiate between conflict and weak output caused by “cancer-cells” in the team that have to radically be cut out to stop metastasizing and destructing company cultures and conflict as part of a natural lifecycle and development of a team and workforce.

Aside from the “cancer” example, we must understand that there is no “bad employee”, but maybe a right employee in a wrong job role or workplace.

Your task as a team leader is to review the roots of certain behaviours and perceptions. Get to know the people you work with, communicate and be a visible support.

…And never underestimate the progress-power of mistakes!
Mistakes are a development tool for learning and growth. And one thing is for sure: Everybody makes mistakes!
The difference is in how people are dealing with them: we can LEARN from mistakes or ignore and REPEAT them.
If someone makes a mistake it does not mean that the person is not the right one to do the job.
Being wrong belongs to an open and inclusive learning culture.

If the same mistake is happening repeatedly, then it becomes inevitable to have a conversation with that person.

To navigate a difficult conversation into a productive and positive outcome, you – as an emotionally intelligent and skilled leader – can consider asking those questions to get the ball rolling:


1. “Why do you think this happened?”

You want to know what was going wrong from the team member’s point of view, with or without blaming inside or outside factors. Here it is crucial to take in the explanation without judgment.


2. “How do you feel about it?”

The answer to this question is a great indicator of how people are coping with problems and their perception of their work and ownership of what has happened.


3. “How do we solve that problem?”

Problem-solving skills and the grade of responsibleness are being put on the table. You may get deeper insights into what people are expecting you or someone else to step up to not repeat this mistake.

If there is no solution right away, you can help with this question:

“It is impossible to solve, unless…?”
This is the place for improvement suggestions from either side.


4. “How can I support you?”

Further, it is important to let people know that you as the leader are there for them, and you are very much open to help with clarity, solving conflict situations, or any concerns of your team members.


5. “What’s important to remember is…”

This last point is a direction rather than a question.
You don’t want to make people feel that you criticize them for mistakes if they have opened up about what is concerning them and what they need.
Concluding with the key result of that conversation in expressing expectation and appreciation for the future not only serves the engagement but personal growth, out-of-the-box-thinking and avoiding repeated mistakes.

People need a place in which they feel psychologically safe, where they can be open about their concerns, being supported in growth through inclusion and failure, and finding themselves in an open learning and contribution culture.


>> If you are interested in guidance through or improving your communication and conflict solving ability with team members or colleagues, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.


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