Handling Difficult Conversations: Remember the Four Hs

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You have to be humble. Whether you are initiating the conversation, or someone else is engaging you in one, if pride is not laid aside, you will get defensive, and things will go south in a hurry!

Heart, Head, Heart

This three-step process is similar to the “sandwich methodology,” where you sandwich a negative message between two positive messages. But it has a subtle difference that increases the likelihood of success.  Here is how it works:

When you begin a conversation you expect to be difficult, start by letting the recipient know you care. It is more than a positive statement taught in the sandwich methodology. Find what you can say to demonstrate you know he or she has value and worth.  No matter what difficult conversation you have to engage in, if you are truly looking to help the person, you can show that, and connect with him/her.

Now is the time to apply your logic. The recipient knows you’re on his or her side and you want that person to succeed. This will allow you to communicate what needs to change or be accomplished. It is also time for you to TRULY listen to relevant concerns or questions, though not to deflecting arguments, and work through and gain agreement on a plan.

This is the ideal situation. Sometimes it will not happen. Sometimes despite your best reasoning, the other person will not agree. The best you can hope for then is that he or she will at least acquiesce to authority, if you are his/her leader, or to civility, if it is a peer-to-peer, or employee to superior situation.

Heart:  Whether or not you come to agreement or it is just time to terminate a fruitless conversation, in the last step try to connect by letting the recipient know you appreciate their willingness to agree, try it your way, or at least give you his/her time to discuss the matter.  During the “head” phase, if you keep in mind you will have to end with a “heart” message, it will help you not allow the conversation to devolve.

Source: 3 R’s of Success