Your voice is your strongest asset. Yet too many of us swallow our words and mute our voices because we don’t feel comfortable – in fact, feel rather icky – with anything smacking even a bit of “confrontational”.
Let’s make it easier, shall we?
The 5 Key Questions:
1. What needs to be said?
2. Why does it need to be said?
3. Who needs to say it?
4. When does it need to be said?
5. What do I hope happens after it’s said?
So, #1, what do you need to say? You’ve been dwelling on it, I know, but work it out or practice with yourself or a piece of paper. Trust me, don’t practice with a colleague or your 12 year old. Remember that old WW2 adage: “Loose lips sink ships” and get absolutely clear all by yourself on what needs saying. Truly, I cannot tell you the number of times clients (and me, too) have confided in a co-worker, or a friend who turned out to be less than trustworthy. Sorry to say, but it happens. With sad and unhappy consequences. So work it out by yourself first. Practice it. Use “I” phrases, as in “I really don’t appreciate the f-bomb, Tony. Can you stop using it around me?” Got it?
OK, with #2 it all comes down to this: you have to know your “why”. How do you feel not saying it? Make your response short and sweet as you’re working through the questions. Because you’ll come back to this in #5.
#3 will give you heartburn. Especially those of you upon whose broad shoulders rest the cares and worries of everyone in the world. You know, you’ve got all those people who come to you with their concerns, troubles and peeves, and de facto ask you to take care of it for them. Yes, you are strong. Yes, you are smart. But sometimes what needs to be said is someone else’s business. If it is? Keep your nose out. Say, “Wow. Sounds tough. What are you going to do about it?” That’ll work.
Remember: Your voice is precious. Use it wisely.
Timing is everything, and #4 reflects that idea. Difficult conversations become less difficult when you have them at the right time. Research shows that the best opportunity to change behavior comes as close to the action as possible. So an immediate correction when someone drops the f-bomb (if that’s the problem), or when a jibe cuts a little too close will give you the best chance to change the situation.
Dealing with a troubling situation in the moment also keeps the anxiety from building like a rolling snowball of ick. Deal with it while it’s still a flake and it will stay small.
However, if it’s a tense situation, then finding a time – soon – when things are calmer to give feedback and use your “I” phrase.
Because feedback is all you’re giving, right?
#5, what do I hope happens? If I hope people will say, “OMG! You are so right! I have been wrong all these years! I finally see the light! You are so wise, strong and kind! Thank you, thank you!” – if that’s what you hope happens (your #3 “why”), you might as well stop. That ain’t feedback.
That’s all about ego – yours – and the ego is a lousy foundation for action.
With #5, the ultimate outcome you hope for is that you have used your voice. That you can stand up for yourself. That you are the best advocate for yourself and you are on the record with what is acceptable to you and what is not. That you are known and seen.
Whether you are asking for a raise, or correcting an employee, or correcting your boss, following these five steps will make “confrontation” a little easier.
Next week? How about we talk about bullies…?
[This post first appeared last week in a private message to members of The Club – my low-cost coaching program. There are a handful of available slots now – if you’re looking for great tools, private laser coaching with me, and access to free classes, recordings and other features, won’t you join now? More information here.]