How to have tough conversations, how to make them productive, and how to survive them
You may not want to hear this, but if you’re doing your job right all your conversations are “tough”. That is, they deal with complex, nuanced topics like application design or organizational dynamics or performance. They involve people who care deeply about those topics. They require arriving confidently at decisions that matter to your job and everyone’s job.
But, just because they’re necessary doesn’t make them easy. And sometimes it feels like our training prepared us for everything but the difficult conversation. Sometimes it feels like you all will never see eye-to-eye, or that none of you ever understand each other. Sometimes it feels like you all just keep talking in circles. Sometimes it feels like that one coworker doesn’t even *want* to come to an agreement. No one has these conversations because they want to: they have them because they have to.
In this workshop, we’ll talk about what makes conversations tough and how to navigate them. We’ll identify and practice techniques that you can bring to your conversations to make them productive. These techniques fall into four categories:
- Empathizing: Building understanding between people
- Involving: Drawing people into the process
- Redirecting: Shifting focus to productive topics or goals
- Reframing: Adopting a different vocabulary
These techniques directly address the most typical obstacles in conversations, like lack of empathy or understanding. We’ll look at some of these obstacles more deeply and discuss how fear and confusion are the primary distractors from productive conversation. We’ll develop a framework for facilitating conversations to arrive at meaningful conclusions based on the types of conversations you have. These different kinds of conversations include:
- Facilitating: Managing a conversation toward a productive outcome
- Presenting: Conveying ideas to get input or buy in
- Critiquing: Providing feedback on work to move the project forward
- Techniques for thinking on your feet as you deal with difficult conversations in the moment
- Techniques for preparing for tough conversations to set yourself up for success
- Techniques for specific types of conversations typical to UX projects and processes
- Framework for assessing the obstacles preventing you from reaching productive conclusions