Conversations that feel like they’re turning in circles are confusing. Disorienting even. We sit down to talk, thinking that we’re going to clear the air, make some progress, and find a way forward, only to (re)discover that we seem to be repeating the same words to the same outcome over and over again.
When we’re stuck in the well-worn groove of a (completely) unproductive dialogue (again) we need more than well-wishes and good intentions.
We need a roadmap through the muck.
Here are 4 simple steps you can use to build one that’ll help you get unstuck.
Think about your Hard Conversation topic. Then follow the steps below:
Step 1: Be real
What do you want? I mean, what do you really want out of this conversation (not what you’ve been saying you want because you’re afraid to ask for what you really want).
Step 2: Get clear
What concrete steps do you need to take to get just a little bit closer to what you actually want the next time The Hard Conversation comes up?
For example, do you need to take the lead in learning more about this topic (instead of waiting on your conversation partner to change)?
Perhaps you need to write down a simple script, something like: I’d really like us to __________ [choice you’d like all conversation participants to make], because __________ [outcome you all want] is important to all of us. Since we agree on __________[outcome you all want], do you think we could try to use that as a starting point instead?
Maybe you need to get some rest before you try again. (I’m not being condescending.) There are few things more frustrating than trying to redirect a conversation that’s going sideways when you desperately want to assume the horizontal position.
Step 3: Tell the truth
Now that you’re clear about what you want, and you’ve come up with a doable action-step to get closer to what you want, it’s time to tell the truth - starting with yourself.
Do you want to have this conversation - or do you need to circle back?
Are there specific things you need before you’re willing to have this conversation using a fresh approach? If so, how can you take responsibility for meeting your own needs (so that you’re not stuck waiting on someone else to change)?
If you’re ready to have the conversation, what are your boundaries? When are you going to decide it’s time to hit the pause button, and what do you need to continue pushing through?
Step 4: Have the conversation, get clear, and repeat
After the conversation, keep telling the truth as you break things down within yourself. What worked and what didn’t? What needs to shift, and are there any signs of progress?
Do not skip this step. This information will help you move towards clarity as you repeat Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 as needed. Shift and tweak as you go.
The lessons we learn as we build our roadmap can help us carve a new groove - instead of staying trapped in the one we’re trying to escape.