Category Archives: Community Q&A

Community QA

Competing with a Colleague

To help more of our readers with their crucial conversations, accountability discussions, and behavior change challenges, we introduced the Community Q&A column! Please share your answers to this reader’s question in the comments below.

Dear Crucial Skills,

My colleague and I were in competition for a promotion thirteen months ago. I was awarded the position and since then our relationship has changed dramatically. At one point in our careers we shared an office and had a very positive relationship. Now every encounter seems to be difficult. She often reacts to my suggestions with anger and has even been seen to point her finger at me and order me to do things. I do not report to her nor does she report to me. We continue to be colleagues and I do not wish to pull rank—that isn’t how I work. This person is valued and has skills which we need in our organization, but I am not accustomed to this lack of respect and constant anger. How can I approach her to stop the behavior without inflaming an already difficult relationship?

Sincerely,
Delicacy Required

Community QA

Delivering Bad News

To help more of our readers with their crucial conversations, accountability discussions, and behavior change challenges, we introduced the Community Q&A column! Please share your answers to this reader’s question in the comments below.

Dear Crucial Skills,

How do you tell someone that they are no longer a fit for the demands of their current position? I need to tell an employee that they should step down into a lesser role or else they may end up losing their job due to poor performance.

Sincerely,
Stuck Manager

Community QA

Why You Shouldn’t Hold a Crucial Conversation

The other day, it seemed the whole family woke up a little rushed and even more crabby. As we all tore around the house looking for socks and lunchboxes and jackets, my eyes began that familiar wander toward all the not-yet-Pinterest-worthy spots in the house. Another unwatered plant! That broken window-pane! This out-of-control closet! And the emergency earthquake kit—with expired provisions—that will certainly be the death of us all when the big one hits!

My tyrannical mental march around the house ended when it was time to take the kids to school. Drop-offs were quick and I soon found myself alone with my thoughts as I headed home to work side-by-side with my husband for the rest of the day. While driving, I planned how I would hold my hubby accountable for his role in contributing to the mountainous collection of things not-yet-done. But I’d had that conversation before and knew how it would surely go. And I didn’t think I would be enjoying the rest of my day very much. So I decided NOT to give voice to my criticism this day. Instead, when I was least in the mood for it, I walked back into the house and invited Gary to go for a walk with me. And he did! As we walked, we held hands. We talked. He even asked if he could take me out for breakfast. A lovely impromptu date with no mention of household tasks. Later that day, I mentioned I thought there was a lot to do and he agreed. We made a list together and started putting tasks on the calendar. Success!

I know Sheryl Sandberg coined the phrase “Lean In” to mean something different, but when I think about how to stop getting in the way of myself at home, it feels like a helpful mantra to lean TOWARD the people I love (when I’m most tempted to give them a good talking-to). Here’s what my new Lean In mantra is teaching me:

When the children whine, don’t tell them to stop. Just lean in for a hug.
When someone complains, don’t tell them to be grateful. Lean in with empathy.
When I feel disrespected, lean in and model respect.
When I want to control outcomes, lean in with choices and flexibility.

As my ever-wise husband likes to gently remind me, not every conversation needs to be a crucial one. As Valentine’s Day approaches, perhaps the best gifts include not just the conversations we need to have, but in some cases, the ones we don’t have. I’m working on it.

How about you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Community QA

Who's Responsible for Renee Zellweger?

There is so much chatter about Renée Zellweger’s new look. But perhaps it’s time to turn our gaze to an underlying issue that I don’t hear the media addressing in this conversation—how do women talk to each other? For that matter, how do men talk to women? And what does it say about who we are and what we value?

Human beings have this incredible, deep need to be in relationships with other people. We want to engage with each other, but what are we choosing to talk about? I’d like to explore the idea that our conversations affect how we see ourselves, and perhaps even the values we subconsciously espouse.

I’ve been pregnant three times—the last with twins. Each time, I was struck by the outpouring of friendly conversation lavished upon me by strangers and friends alike. People talk to pregnant women because they know the rules for what to talk about with a mommy-to-be. You can ask about the due-date, the name of the baby, chat about food cravings, or the discomfort of pregnancy. Now, when I am out and about with the twins, I experience the same excitement from strangers. They approach me abuzz with questions about what it’s like to raise multiples. I’ve found when traveling alone for work, just sitting on an airplane next to someone invites familiar chatter. When it feels welcome and easy, strangers engage with each other. But it’s not always so welcome and easy, which is why we play on our phones and ignore each other much of the time.

In my work, I have the privilege of teaching thousands of people around the globe how to build relationships and get results through dialogue. I am essentially teaching the rules for holding effective crucial conversations. People are so grateful for these rules. When we know the rules for engagement, we feel more confident and less vulnerable stepping up to these difficult conversations. However, no one teaches us the rules for casual conversations.

I suspect when we greet our friends or turn to strangers to make small talk, we are not consciously connecting to our deeper values in those moments. I fear our friendly and well-intentioned chitchat could very well be contributing to the reasons that beautiful women like, Renée Zellweger, find themselves in search of a new mid-life look.

Here are the kinds of things I hear us saying:

“I can’t believe you just had a baby. You look amazing!”
“Where did you get those shoes?”
“I love your hair.”
“How do you stay so thin? Do you work out?”

If these are the comments a woman hears day in and day out, what does she come to believe society values most about her? The social justice work she does? Her commitment to lifelong learning? The kindness she extends as a friend, a colleague, a neighbor, a wife? The discipline she demonstrates in her work, her studies, and her parenting? No. She learns that she is valued for her body, her clothes, and her image. Perhaps she comes to believe that her vitality is tied to the fleeting physical beauty of youth.

And if one day she stops receiving a steady stream of these comments (or if the comments she hears are of the more disparaging, critical kind to begin with), she is left wondering how valued she really is.

She might be tempted to believe that society will value her more if she could just “get a little work done” or drop a few pounds or cover the gray.

It seems to me that people are hungry, maybe even desperate for human connection and face-to-face conversation. Delightful, spontaneous, kind words from strangers, friends, and acquaintances can be some of the best kind.

What if, for just this week, we all tried to refrain from commenting on each other’s looks and just celebrated each other’s gorgeous spirits and beautiful ideas instead?

To the mom juggling four young children with grace and humor in a crowded restaurant, “You make it look easy.”

To the young girl reading, “I love books, don’t you? What’s your favorite?”

To the woman in the work meeting who’s holding back her contributions, “We haven’t heard from you today. I always love what you have to say. Is there anything you’d like to share?”

To the older woman holding hands with her husband walking through the mall, “You guys are the sweetest. What an inspiration you are!”

It’s been said that our sense of self stems from the narrative we tell about our lives. That narrative is nothing but a collection of memories. Perhaps each of us could change that collective narrative by changing what we see, what we talk about, and what we find beautiful about each other. And maybe even in ourselves.

Crucial Skills Readers: What are your thoughts? How could we better prioritize the importance we place on physical beauty?

Community QA

Helping a Student Hold a Coach Accountable

To help more of our readers with their crucial conversations, accountability discussions, and behavior change challenges, we introduced the Community Q&A column! Please share your answers to this reader’s question in the comments below.

Dear Crucial Skills,

Our high school uses a model that requires the student-athlete to lead discussions as issues arise with the coach of their respective sport.

We currently have a situation where a student-athlete asks their coach what they can do to improve and get more playing time. The only recommendation the coach has given is: “Keep working hard. It will be fine.” What can a student-athlete say to a coach who seems too general in their feedback?

Sincerely,

Stuck in the Middle

Community QA

Community Q&A: Influencing a Toddler

To help more of our readers with their crucial conversations, accountability discussions, and behavior change challenges, we recently introduced the Community Q&A column! Please share your answers to this reader’s question in the comments below.

Q Dear Crucial Skills,

I just heard Mr. Grenny speak and I couldn’t help but wonder how could I use influence and persuasion to potty train my toddler? We have been working at it from a reward/consequence standpoint but perhaps I am not giving him enough credit. Maybe a simple behavior modifier that doesn’t involve sweet treats (which I refuse to give) or punishment would work?

Sincerely,

Pondering Potty Training

Community QA

Community Q&A: Confronting a Gamer

To help more of our readers with their crucial conversations, confrontations, and behavior change challenges, we recently introduced the Community Q&A column! Please share your answers to this reader’s question in the comments below.

Q Dear Crucial Skills,

My husband spends an average of five hours a day playing video games and surfing the internet. I have attempted to confront him about the amount of time he spends on the internet and the effect it is having on our marriage, our children, and on himself. His response to my comments is, “I know I have a problem, but it’s a problem I’m not ready to deal with yet.”

How can I best address this issue without resorting to divorce or separation? I am tired of trying to “deal with it” until he is ready.

A Gamer’s Wife