A Time and Place for Vital Conversation
You ever hear that from someone when you want to have a vital conversation? You want to talk about where the relationship is going.
I am not ready to talk about that.
You want to discuss your future in the organization.
This is not a good time to have that discussion.
Perhaps you have used this response yourself with others. Maybe even told it to yourself when you are faced with something that had to be addressed in the workplace or on your team. Adam is a gregarious person and has been with the team a few months. Everyone likes Adam. He always makes everyone laugh and he’s always ready to make the party lively. The problem is Adam is consistently not meeting his deadlines for deliverables on projects. It puts the project behind and causes everyone else to have to work longer and harder to make it up. So far, because Adam is so likable, the rest of the team has been good-natured about it but you know it won’t last for long. You need to have a critical conversation now and it will be unpleasant.
Well, we have a couple of fires we need to put out, we’ve had somewhat of a crisis around here, and we need to meet these deliverables. It’s not a good time to upset the apple cart. Now is not a good time.
Vital Conversations Are Timely
As I write this, we in America are a day away from experiencing what is now being called The Worst Mass Shooting in American History. In Las Vegas, someone with unknown motives (at this time) utilized a number of rifles modified to be fully automatic to rain gunfire down on a crowd at a concert. Fully-automatic means the one pull of the trigger will fire off a lot of bullets within a very short span of time. The result at this moment is over 58 killed and over 517 wounded. It is tragic and horrendous. Across the country, emotions are high on this one.
Predictably, some have seen this as an opportunity to renew discussions of gun control. Others have railed against those people, calling them insensitive and politically opportunistic. They say that now is not the right time to talk about these things. Yet that is precisely why that vital conversation needs to occur.
Timing is Not Easy to Determine
Timing is a tricky game. Those who have mastered a sense of timing have gone far because of the right action at the right time. The rest of us struggle and learn from it (or don’t) every day.
However, because mastering timing is so difficult, many of us fall victim to what John Maxwell calls the Law of Diminishing Intent. In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, Maxwell defines the law as one of increasing inaction. Specifically, John Maxwell says “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds are that you will never do it.” In other words, every time you put it off for later, the less likely it is you will address it ever.
Therefore, the time is now. Or at the very least we should set the time to discuss now. At least that action in the right direction is progress. Life Coach Mel Robbins advances another theory which factors in here that she calls the Five-Second Rule.
No, this is not the one regarding food on the floor. I’ve seen too many floors and the ways that too many people clean floors to buy into that one.
Robbins’ states her rule like this: If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.
The time to talk about gun control is now because in five seconds our mind will be on something else. Waiting got no results after Sandy Hook School shooting, it got no results after Pulse Nightclub shooting, no results after the Virginia Tech shooting, and nowhere after the University of Texas shooting.
It’s time to have that vital conversation about contributing to the team. Or about your future with the organization. And about where the relationship is going.
Rules of Vital Conversation
Just remember some basic ground rules for vital conversation, because to talk strictly out of emotion is to step back and not forward.
- Get Yourself Straight. Make sure you are in the right mode to have the conversation. You need to put aside strong negative emotions and be in a mindset for positive intent. If we start off making the other person the enemy we won’t get positive results.
- Eliminate Assumptions. Don’t go into the conversation assuming what the other person will do or say. That’s dangerous because we tend to then create the entire conversation flow around that and develop our mindset accordingly.
- Tell Your Story. In the book Crucial Conversations, this is expressed as sharing facts and then sharing the meaning you attach to those facts.
- Don’t Accuse. A vital conversation is not a denouement or court. Your role is not to blame but to find a resolution.
- Invite Exchange. Hear their story. Use Active Listening skills to find understanding. Look for shared meaning or connection. That’s where real vital conversation can begin.
- Agree to Action. That action might be a plan of improvement or an adjustment of roles. Sometimes it is simply another meeting date and time to continue. Other times it could be separation.
Action is Critical for Moving Forward.
Without an action plan of some sort, we are having vital conversations for the sake of conversation and nothing else. Without positive action, resentment grows – on both sides – and productivity fades further away.