Sunday, 29 December 2019

Challenging Conversations: A Checklist

Difficult conversations "are all about coming to a common and workable solution that helps everyone to grow and move past the situation" (Brian Gatens). In education there may be several times we need to have a difficult or challenging situation; with students, whānau,  student teachers, colleagues, leaders etc for a variety of reasons. Throughout this year, I have needed to have a few myself, particularly with student teachers and colleagues. As a result, I wanted to learn further about difficult conversations. 

After researching and reflecting on what I read, watched and discussed, below are the key points I have taken away about having challenging conversations;
  • Scheduling the chat to be at an appropriate time is important. This is to ensure there is plenty of time, so the conversation doesn't feel rushed or incomplete at the end. When scheduling, give some indication to the other person what the conversation will be about if you feel it is appropriate, so that they have time to think about it/make their own notes prior.
  • Prepare a list of things you would like to say before going into the conversation and stick to the facts throughout. These will help you to stay on track, and reduce opinions and emotions coming into the discussion.
  • At the beginning of the conversation, explain the purpose of the meeting clearly and deliberately. Disclose concerns/problems honestly and respectfully. If you aren't open and honest throughout the conversation about what you are thinking, there may be limited steps forward to resolve the issue.
  • Support your point of view with specific examples to illustrate - remain factual. Be assertive, not passive. You want to get your point across, but you also want to maintain a positive relationship afterward.
  • "Get curious, not furious" (Richard Wells) - ask questions as opposed to giving statements, inquire rather than instantly attempting to solve a problem.
  • Be prepared to have your own assumptions and beliefs challenged, to increase validity of reasoning and demonstrate you are open to a conversation. Be sure to consider the possible causes of the concern/problem (this is key!).
  • Use tentative language as opposed to definitive - opening up and inviting them into the conversation. Provide time for the other(s) involved to share their perspectives. 
  • Paraphrase what the other person or people are saying, to demonstrate you are actively listening. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to elaborate further, to gain further understanding of their perspective.
  • Once you've heard and considered all perspectives, brainstorm possible solutions/next steps together. What do we value moving forward, not what do I value. The decision making process needs to be shared. All should understand the 'why' behind the solutions suggested, not feel as if they are being put in place because the 'person in power' has said so!
  • Summarise the meeting, write down the next steps/where to from here, and make a time/further meeting to check in on these steps and how they are progressing
  • Afterward, once all members of the conversation have had time to process and reflect, there may be further questions or comments to discuss (so be open to emails or another meeting to be scheduled).
Alongside is a sketchnote created by Richard Wells. The bullet points in this post came from a discussion we had using the sketchnote as a prompt, as well as the resources listed below.
I thought this was a great final post for the year, to feel more confident to have difficult conversations in 2020 - bring on my fifth year!

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