Having difficult conversations is inevitable. Having successful discussions about difficult topics is challenging, if not seemingly impossible at times. Engaging in these conversations is a skill well worth developing. David Brooks, in this New York Times article, provides some useful advice for today’s tough climate.
In these conversations people should point out what they do and do not agree with. Expressing that someone has a legitimate grievance, and suggesting that there may be better ways to handle it, can disarm someone who just expects a fight. We are going through - and it will get worse - a period where the roles of bystanders and activists are critical. In my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I give guidance on how to go from being a bystander to becoming a protector, defender, resistor and activist.
In my blog, ‘The Importance of Learning to Civilly and Effectively Communicate Disagreement’, I discuss how Emotional Intelligence and living by the Golden Rule greatly enhances your ability to be effective. With the research that we’re engaged in with the Yale Center For Emotional Intelligence, in an initiative called Emotion Revolution in the Workplace, we have validated that emotional intelligence is a tremendous resource in having those critical, difficult discussions, in particular when the ethic of reciprocity is applied.
Having these critical and difficult discussions must also apply to others we have relationships with such as family, vendors, regulators, and communities. There is no question that there is huge discontent for a variety of reasons, which is fuelling the flames of bigotry, polarization, protectionism and extremism. I assert that creating emotionally intelligent schools, workplaces, and associations is perhaps our only hope in stopping the normalization of the abnormal.
Photo credit: Russian News