I spent a great day with a head teacher and deputy head working on difficult conversations. These two were a great fun pair who, to their credit, never shied away from having those conversations so many of us avoid. However, they had reached a point where they both had some conversation classed as ‘top-level trickies’ and were keen to improve their already good performance even further.
We worked through a range of activities largely focused on body language, questioning, and listening. We’ve all heard the widely cited Mehrabian research: communication is 55% body language, 38% how it’s said and 7% is what we actually say. I should point out that this research focused on communicating emotional content (feelings and attitudes), although the findings have been widely applied to many areas of communication. You can read more about this here.
In focusing on the non-verbal and often neglected sides of these conversations, the team were able to improve the effectiveness of their communication and make progress. Sometimes it was all about the non-verbal messages they themselves were giving, at other times it was about the impact they had on the other.
Through questioning and listening techniques, they were also able to very much focus on the person – a real secret weapon in having successful difficult conversations.
Both moved on leaps and bounds in one day, turning situations that made their hearts pound to ones they approached with calm and confidence.