Let’s face it: difficult conversations, when we have strong feelings about different points of view in interdependent relationships like those we have at work, are tough. But if issues are to be resolved effectively, we can’t avoid having tough talks. These conversations require an artful balance of clarity and tact, asserting and listening, and focusing on our goals while factoring in others’.
So, how do we do it? One useful approach to try is a four-step method we refer to as the DEAR Method. DEAR is an acronym to help you remember the steps:
- “D” stands for: Describe specifically what you saw and heard. Stick to the facts as you understand them, and resist the urge to talk about what you think was going on in their head at the time. Avoid intensifiers like “always”, “never”, “everyone”, etc. as these only make the other person defensive and can weaken your credibility. You don’t need them.
- E” stands for: Explain the effects. Tell them how what you experienced affected you, the work and the area. Focus on the impacts you directly experience or observe rather than speaking for others. For example, you might say: “When you used the word ‘stupid,’ I noticed that the meeting became silent. The way you expressed your disagreement shut me down.”
- “A” stands for: Ask to hear their point of view. Let them present their perspective. Expect it to be different from yours and be pleasantly surprised if anything they say resembles your point of view. Hear them out, even if you disagree or even believe they’re lying.
- “R” stands for: Request what you’d like to see happen differently in the future. It’s often important to get to the roots of issues in our personal lives, but in professional life, it isn’t often required. The most important thing is clarifying how we will move forward in the future. Ask for what you’re looking for and stay open to options they suggest.