Why are your conversations damaging?

A while back I wrote about that ‘Content and Intent is all you need’ when it comes to have conversations that make a big difference.  I want to explore this more and help us understand what WE might bring to our conversations or feedback that heads them south.

I’m referring to those conversations we have that damage.  They damage the relationship with the other person, the message we are trying to send and ultimately the outcome suffers.

I was working with a client to, let’s put it kindly, ‘re-draft’ their conversation with one of their Sales Managers about how behind on budget he was.  She thought stating the fact he was behind was enough.  It wasn’t.

Firstly, she ‘needed’ to give him the facts about how far behind he was, discuss numbers of budget to actuals and how much more time he had to make budget. The time he had was 2 weeks, (unless there was a decent pipeline about to land) and that it was a concern.

She was going to ‘let him know’ that not meeting this budget was not going to look good for her with the CEO.  Whilst this was true – her intent of the conversation appeared to be about her and how she was perceived by the CEO.  This was not his concern and certainly wouldn’t motivate him to change.

Damaging conversations are missing two vital ingredients. Great content and well grounded intent.  They wound the people we are with and the outcomes we are looking to achieve when;

  1. The content has little preparation and facts
  2. The intent has little care and no responsibility

Content is cool

In my 20 + years of experience studying and having conversations, poor content mostly stems from not having the tools.  And I’m not talking about the tools on your team.  I’m talking about knowing how to prepare and structure the conversations.  Especially gathering some good ol’ fashioned facts.  Not ‘alternative facts’.  I’m talking about information that people can not argue with.  Numbers, times, dates, what someone actually said and did.

When we fail to present the facts, we are merely discussing our opinion.  If this is not backed up by why we have come to this thinking then the conversation can go south, fast.  This content damages.  In it’s worst case it is what I call ‘verbal assassination’.

Intent is essential

We hear the content yet we smell the intent.  You know that feeling in your gut when someone is telling you something but you’re not buying it.  It’s usually that we don’t trust or believe what is being said.

The reason we get these feelings has many layers. To name a few;

  • You might not trust the person
  • You might believe they have their own interest ahead of your own
  • You might have trust issues yourself

10% of conflicts are due to difference of opinion (content).  90% due to tone (intent). 

Again, sit in your shoes and ask yourself before you have a conversation.  Why am I saying this?  What am I looking to gain?

Be really honest with yourself.  I can recall several conversations where my true intent was to let the other person know that they were wrong and I was right.  I wrapped it up in ‘just wanted to share my observations’ but the saying that you ‘can’t polish a turd’ springs to mind.

If you are coming from a good place then others smell this and will work with you to understand the content.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of damaging conversations.  If we are honest with ourselves we have also fallen into the trap of giving them.  So let’s take responsibility for what we can control – ourselves.  Let’s learn for us and ultimately those around us.

If you want to become a legend at giving and receiving feedback get your own copy of my first book or ebook of Fixing Feedback.