Once you’ve done the challenging inner work of preparing and planning your important conversation, and after you have completed AEIOU or your variation of it, you enter the body of the conversation. Sweaty palms and a racing heart often accompany these moments. As you well know, you never know what might happen. Most of us have reasons to fear the interaction since we’ve had prior experiences where important conversations went sideways or south—particularly when the other person pressed too hard on our hot buttons.
To maximize your chances of having a great, potentially even transformational conversation, it’s best to keep front of mind all of your work that preceded this moment. Most importantly, to focus on the positive outcome/desire you have for this conversation and how beneficial this would be in your relationship with this person. Clarity and commitment to keep your eyes and ears doggedly on the prize you imagined originally will help you stay centered and present during the conversation. It acts as a trail marker to keep you on a positive thrive path.
One way to keep your focus on a positive outcome is to have a few words to silently remind yourself. “I’m committed to a win-win result here” or “I want things to feel good.” You may keep an image or symbol in mind like a tranquil valley where you feel totally at peace. Having anchors to keep reminding you of your destination will help you stay on a positive path—even if the other person is not. Anchors are a powerful way to calm yourself during the talk.
Aside from the potential of defensiveness derailing an important conversation, a lack of clarity about your hopes or expectations can also lead to unfulfilled, undesirable results. Make sure you don’t wander onto less important topics, even if they’re interesting. The more you focus on the core issue(s), the more likely that you’ll be successful. You can be kind when the other person goes off topic and simply suggest that while they may be bringing up an important point, it would be best to gain deeper resolution about the topic at hand.
Keeping your eyes and ears on a positive prize will spare you much of the angst I experienced earlier in my four decades long journey of having challenging conversations. Years ago I would just blurt out my upset with anyone who had angered me. I realized, in retrospect, that much of my intention was to hurt the other person since I had felt hurt by them. Not surprisingly, this intention and the actions that followed did not lead to happy outcomes. Pain led me to examine my motivations for speaking up more deeply; I still have to resist a tendency to blurt and instead rely on reflecting and planning first. Being clear about my positive intentions and desired outcomes has helped me stay (relatively) calm in some intense conversations. May the light side of the Force be with you.