Leadership Tip

How to reverse a conversational meltdown

Conversational meltdowns are far more reversible than they feel when temperatures rise. The basic principle behind any intervention is to interrupt the dance of death. The goal is to slow participants from generating new evidence to confirm mutual fears. Or even better, to engage them in generating disconfirming evidence - evidence that their fears are misplaced. Here are six things that can halt, and sometimes reverse, a conversation meltdown:

  • Own your part. Take responsibility for your actions, as in, “I’m getting loud and aggressive. I’m sorry. I don’t want this to be a competition.”
     
  • Offer safety. Say something like, “I am committed to making this work for both of us.”
     
  • Point out the default future. Say, “I don’t like where this is going. I’m guessing you don’t either. Can we try a different tack?”
     
  • Talk about rules. Say, “Can we take a timeout? Perhaps we could discuss some ground rules for this negotiation?”
     
  • Change the pace. A fast-moving conversation reinforces feelings of panic or threat. Slow it down.
     
  • Refocus on agreement. Say, “Can I pause for a moment and point out what we both agree on?” Then enumerate common interests, beliefs, or histories.

The above leadership tip...
was sent in response to a question from a participant on our 10/10 leadership development and mentoring programme and adapted from What to Do If a Conversation Is Turning Loud and Aggressive by Joseph Grenny. Whether you're a first time manager or an experienced leader, straightforward, practical advice on best practice is hard to find. Until now. To find out how you, your team or your organisation can benefit, please join us on our next complimentary webinar or contact us.

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