Just read Crucial Conversations by K. Patterson, J. Granny, R. McMillan and A. Switzler. Brilliant book! I recommend it!
A few thoughts from the book and from me:
Ask yourself what you want from the conversation. Know your aim. Stay with it throughout the conversation.
A few more great questions: What do I want for myself? What do I want for others? What do I want for the relationship? This will help both sides to achieve their aims, maintaining a good relationship.
Treat everyone in the conversation with 100% honesty and 100% respect.
Would you collaborate with a person, who doesn’t respect you? Let others feel you respect them and their opinion.
Likewise, let others know you care about them and what they want.
Make sure that people feel safe. When people feel safe, they can talk about almost everything.
When people don’t feel safe, they don’t want to talk and/or they might interpret even the best intended words as offensive.
If others don’t feel safe, encourage them to speak up. If that doesn’t help, try challenging your own ideas out loud. You can also try guessing what other people might think to encourage the discussion on a topic.
Silence is not always a confirmation. Maybe people don’t feel safe enough to share?
More heads can come up with better ideas than one. So put your ideas aside and listen to what other people have to say. Then share (don’t push, share) your ideas and let others listen as well. You’ll all end up with a common shared knowledge pool. It will be the cornerstone of both better decisions and better relationships.
It’s hard to change others, but easy to change your own behavior. So if there’s an issue, first think what you can do about it.
Stay in a dialogue, not in a monologue.
Sometimes we feel that some peoples’ actions are driving us nuts. Wrong! It’s our interpretation of those actions which is driving us nuts. To solve this we can change the stories we tell ourselves (our interpretations). Of course, we can also share our concerns with those “annoying” people and ask for their own view of the situation.
Separate facts from interpretation. He was late to pick you up? That’s a fact. He did it because he’s a ****? That’s an interpretation.
Find a common goal. When both sides have a common goal, then we see ourselves more together than opposite.
If there are some actions to be taken, make it clear who makes decisions and who’s responsible for what. Everyone’s responsibility is no one’s responsibility.
Don’t interrupt when others speak. We can’t both talk and listen at the same time. When we interrupt, we don’t listen.
Paraphrase other people’s words. You’ll make sure you understand them and let them know that you’re listening.
Don’t explode when you hear other opinions. Ask for the reasons people have them.
In relationships, how you say things matter more than what you say. Choose your words carefully.
Feel like being in the conversation a minute longer you will explode? Take a break. Come back when you’re calm. It’s impossible to think straight when one’s brain is drunk in adrenaline.
Want to solve an issue? Don’t avoid the topic. Don’t get into details. Don’t excuse. Stay sharp focused on the cerberus-sized-issue until it shrinks to a fluffy little pug, which you can put into your handbag and take out when you wanna play.
Unsure about something? Don’t make assumptions. Ask!
When you agree with someone, say so. Don’t start with pointing out miserable details. First and foremost let people know you agree. Once the agreement is clear for everyone, you can discuss the nuances. It’s tragicomical to see people arguing for hours about something they all agree on.
If you disagree with something, state precisely and respectfully where you have a different opinion and why.
Fix misunderstandings by contrasting. Sometimes others misunderstand/misinterpret our words, intentions or actions. Contrast: no, I wasn’t rejecting your calls because I wanted you to feel bad, I was rejecting, because at the moment I was giving a presentation to my boss. Contrasting consists of two parts: first clarify the don’t, then clarify the do.
Apologize when you do something wrong. Mean it. We don’t apologize only because our mom and dad taught us. We do it because we genuinely agree that we did something wrong and we strive to fix it and/or make it better. Apologizing is not punishment, it’s the first step towards solution and improvement.
If other people start crossing the boundaries, let them know ASAP (keeping the respect at the same time).
Don’t aim for compromise (i.e. each sacrifices part of what they wish for a common solution), aim to find a solution which satisfies both needs/wishes. This might be tricky or called wishful thinking, but why not consider having everything first?
Can’t find a common solution? Go one level deeper and ask why people want what they want. Maybe those needs/wishes could be satisfied in a different way.
If you agree on a long term solution, but not on a short term one, then this might indeed be a reasonably good compromise.
These tips are just techniques. And like all techniques they should be used when they work and thrown away when they don’t.