Some questions to consider before having a tough conversation
I recently read a 2016 HBR article about when to skip difficult conversations, and it included a checklist of 11 questions to ask yourself that I thought were really smart/helpful. Here are a few of my favorites from the list:
What is my “secret agenda” or “hidden hope” for this conversation? (Long-term harmony? Revenge? That they will change?)
What’s my contribution to the situation?
Do I tend to look for problems with this person or about this issue?
How long ago did it arise? Is it a repeat or recurring problem? Could it become one?
How committed am I to being “right”?
What reasonable, actionable solution can I offer?
Is this the right person to talk to about this issue?
It’s so easy to come up with excuses to justify skipping a tough conversation (“it doesn’t really matter, they won’t change anyway”)…or to make something your problem when it’s actually not just because you’re horny for conflict and justice. These questions are a good way to step outside some of those feelings and get a clearer sense of the best way to proceed.