When stakes are high and opinions differ emotions tend to heat up. We often open our mouth to speak and … don’t do so well. Anxious to blurt out our unflattering conclusions, we usually say things in extremely ineffective ways … and we get bad results.
It’s difficult to tell someone that their behavior is offensive and they aren’t nice to work with. Some of us tend to sugarcoat the message, understating our view out of fear of hurting people and destroying healthy relationships. Others are inclined to be extremely direct and insensitive, quickly jumping to unsound conclusions that damage relationships and diminish results.
Handling sticky discussions skillfully is what sets apart the best communicators from the mediocre ones. It’s what differentiates the most influential leaders from the least influential leaders. Just a few simple steps can make or break relationships and/or results.
The best communicators speak their minds in a way that makes it safe for others to hear what they have to say and respond to it positively. These leaders carefully combine confidence with humility. They are frank and fair; yet, able to speak the unspeakable without adding insult to injury. Their confidence is not construed as arrogance because they reserve the right to be wrong, while openly seeking and valuing the input of others. Talented communicators, their opinions provide a starting point for healthy dialogue, but not the final word.
According to VitalSmarts, the most effective communicators know what they really want before starting a dicey conversation. They influence people to see their perspective using dialogue. They are careful not to jump to unflattering conclusions or invalid judgments. Having mastered their emotions, they persuasively state their perspective using five non-threatening steps that can easily be remembered with the acronym STATE. It stands for:
Share your facts. Start with indisputable, uncontroversial observations.
Ex) You were 15 minutes late.
Tell your story. Explain what you’re beginning to conclude; the negative story in your head.
Ex) I’m beginning to believe you don’t care.
Ask for the others’ perspective. Invite others to share their point of view, and listen to them.
Ex) I’m wondering what you’re thinking.
Talk tentatively. Reserve the right to be wrong. State your story as a story, not disguised as facts.
Ex) In my opinion … or … Maybe I misunderstood …
Encourage opposition. Make it safe for others to express their differing opinion or perspective.
Ex) I know you may be reluctant to speak up, but I’d really love to hear from you.
Influential people use the first three skills to speak in a way that maximizes candor while minimizing defensiveness. They use the last two skills to encourage others to share their facts, stories, and feelings. Combined, STATE skills help us strike a balance between confidence and humility leading to improved relationships, respect, and results.
STATE is a copyright of VitalSmarts, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High.