In leadership and life, there are times when we need to have “critical conversations”. These are the conversations that many of us find challenging. Even the thought of having one of these conversations can cause a knot in the stomach, a sick feeling, shaking, and a huge need to avoid, or run for the hills. These conversations are, however, critical for the progress of the person, ourselves, others, and our organisation.
The problem is, no one really teaches us HOW to have these conversations. The first step, however, is to develop awareness of our behaviour.
A core skill of Soft and Strong Leadership, is an ability to show empathy and be direct. Finding the “sweet spot” can however be tricky, and can depend not only on our own tendencies, but also those with whom we are communicating.
If we have low straightforwardness and low empathy, we will avoid, hint-at, or ignore anything that requires us to be upfront and caring. We can be the bystander.
Having low straightforwardness and high empathy, can cause us to go into ‘rescue’ mode. We will do the work for them, make excuses on their behalf, and try to keep the peace, or even enlist others into our way of thinking, often disguised as “caring”.
If our straightforwardness is high, and our empathy is lower, we can tend to bulldoze, cause high offence, and demand.
Having high empathy and high straightforwardness can also be problematic because we can become overzealous and invasive; getting overly involved in everything.
Critical conversations require finding the ‘sweet-spot’ between showing empathy and being direct. They require knowing which battles to pick, and when.
Underpinned by all of this are our relational skills and self awareness. Do we seek to provide mutuality, equality and empowerment? Are we also aware of our own emotions, thoughts and behaviours and their impact on ourselves and others?
Take a moment to reflect on:
- Where are you situated?
- What types of situations, or people cause you to go into which quadrant?
Want to know more? Check out my book Soft & Strong.