I’ve covered this before but it’s such a simple formula and it works so well that I want to offer it again. I do this in hopes that all of you can see for yourself how much easier it can be to say anything, even have a difficult conversation, and decide for yourselves the benefits of more honesty in all of your communications.

This is a tried and true formula for having difficult conversations and it is easy to remember so, instead of harboring resentment, fostering regret, swallowing anger- just use this tool.

  1. State the problem. What’s wrong? What is upsetting you?
  2. State your commitment. Our commitment is what helps us get through tough times, no matter what.
  3. Ask for input. There’s always two sides to every issue. Practice deep listening and let the other person speak until they’re done.
  4. Create a solution. Now that you’ve shared both sides of the issue, what agreement can you come to that will work going forward and allow you to let go of the past.
  5. There wasn’t originally a number 5, but if there was, it would be to set up a system to actually follow up on the solution, change the behaviors, honor the agreements, etc. Just talking isn’t enough and you do need to follow up on what you both said.

Here’s how it worked a few years back:

  1. Problem: “For the past few weeks you’ve been coming into work 10-15 minutes late and the other employees are noticing. It’s not fair to the rest of the staff and it’s a bad trend in general.”
  2. Commitment: “You’re a valued employee and I know you’re loyal and care about your job so I wanted to clear this up.”
  3. Input: (they answer) “My car pool members are always late this year, either when they pick up my child or when I drive and I have to wait for them to send their child out. I never want to make an excuse about how hard it is being a single mom so I haven’t said anything to anyone here at work; but this has been really frustrating for me. I hate being late.”
  4. Solution: Lots of options here, but the one we decided on was that this mom would enroll her child in the early program at school, so that she could get dropped off up to 1/2 hour earlier for just a few dollars more, and would just use the car pool in the afternoon to get her child home.
  5. Follow up: “I noticed you’ve been early for the past few weeks. How’s the new program working out?” Answer, “It’s great. I get to drop her off early, she gets extra study time and they even provide her a morning snack. Coming in earlier helps me get set up for the day and I don’t feel like I’m always running behind every day . . .”

Don’t pre-judge. Do prepare your thoughts and comments ahead of time. Neutralize your language. Control any emotions or upset you may be experiencing. Listen to their side and try your best to be “over there” with them.

This is a much abbreviated version of the whole training program but it gives you a useful tool. Try it out and let me know what kind of results you get.

Good luck to us all.