Crucial Accountability QA

Intervening Mother-in-Law

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Al Switzler

Al Switzler is coauthor of four bestselling books, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.

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Crucial Confrontations

Q  Dear Crucial Skills,

At a large family gathering, my four-year-old son threw a temper tantrum wanting his cake and ice cream in a bowl rather than on a plate. My wife told him he could have the dessert on the plate as it was served or not at all. Seeing my son’s dissatisfaction with this arrangement, my mother-in-law stepped in with a bowl and loudly stated, “This is my house, and I am his grandmother, and if my grandson wants his dessert in a bowl he can have it in a bowl.” The whole room went silent as Grandma transferred the dessert to the bowl.

I wish my wife had stood up for herself, but old patterns are often hard to break. I also wish I had stood up for my wife and my son. Unfortunately, I am ashamed to say, I reverted to silence (this was before I read Crucial Conversations). This behavior is not a pattern for my mother-in-law, so I am not sure if this is worthy of a crucial conversation. She can be strong in her suggestions but rarely as forceful as she was on that day.

Would it have been appropriate to have a crucial conversation with my Mother-in-law at the moment of her behavior, to reverse her directive back to my wife’s? If so, can you give some suggestions?

Thank you!!!

Signed,

A frustrated son-in-law

A Dear Frustrated,

The key question here is one that haunts many of us: “To speak or not to speak?” In Crucial Confrontations, we devote a chapter to this question. The chapter is entitled “Choose WHAT and IF: How to Know What Crucial Confrontation to Hold and If You Should Hold It.”

The steps we teach about knowing WHAT to confront can be summarized quickly. Masters of these skills get the issue clear in their minds by “unbundling” it—they determine if the issue is one of Content, Pattern, or Relationship. Content deals with the specific or original problem. Pattern is the reoccurrence. And Relationship deals with factors such as trust or respect. Figure out which of these is the real issue here.

The question is not only what you should confront, but if you should confront and whom you should confront. There are several people in this situation you could consider.

The person you focused on primarily was your mother-in-law. You mentioned that the issue with the ice cream was not a pattern. However, you also mention that you wish your wife would stand up for herself. That suggests a pattern. Does your mother-in-law intrude, interrupt, or dominate in ways that are a pattern—regardless of the content? Do you need to talk to her?

We offer a few questions that can help you decide if you should speak up: Is your conscience nagging you? Is that little voice in your head frequently whispering—or yelling—“There it is again! That is so unfair! Doesn’t she realize what she’s doing?” Next question is, are you acting it out? Do you talk about your mother-in-law when she’s not there? Do you withdraw or avoid her? Have you ever seen her name on the caller ID and not answered it while at the same time laughing like some fiend in an old movie? Okay, I’m exaggerating for effect, but you get the point. If you are answering yes to any of these questions, you should probably speak to her.

Next is your wife. Maybe you shouldn’t speak up to your mother-in-law. Maybe you should coach your wife. Does she complain about her mother’s behaviors or actions regularly? Does she “bite her lip”? You could coach your wife about speaking up. You could help her unbundle the issue and decide whether to talk about Content, Pattern, or Relationship. If what has you concerned is her not speaking up, talk to her.

Third is your son. He possibly also has a pattern of behaviors that is of concern. He’s just four, but that’s old enough. You can have a talk with him. How would you do that? You would use the same skills that you would use with your mother-in-law or your wife. Use all the skills that help you deal with what’s crucial. Make it safe—keep it private and don’t go into the talk having pre-judged or being emotional. Start with the facts: “I’ve observed this…” “this is what I expect…” and end with a question: “Can we talk about this?”

Remember that if you don’t talk it out you act it out. There are many ways to deal with these issues. You can balance candor with courtesy. You can build safety and have honesty. There are learnable skills that can help all of us improve to address the issues that matter most in our lives.

Best wishes,

Al

Other

Crucial Applications: Handling Stress

As you watch people who thrive under horrendous pressure, you quickly discover their source of strength. They don’t thrive because they experience stress, squeeze a beanbag, and then fall back into control. Most don’t feel stress in the first place.

Why is that? Because they know how to handle crucial conversations. When facing an apparent debacle, they don’t whip themselves into a frenzy by assuming the worst of others. Instead, they assume the best and then look for facts. They don’t hold court in their head about others and find them guilty before exploring the facts.

They also know how to express their strong opinions in a way that’s persuasive, not abrasive. How? They make others feel safe by assuring them of their own positive intentions and respect for them. Finally, they invite dialogue. This means they actually encourage the other person to disagree with them. By avoiding heated arguments, they keep emotions in check.

So here’s the big take away. Learn how to master crucial conversations, and cut off stress at the source.

Visit http://www.vitalsmarts.com/styleunderstress/ and take our free online Style Under Stress assessment. This short quiz will help you understand your tendencies to move toward silence, violence, or dialogue.

Crucial Conversations QA

My Colleague Thinks I'm An Idiot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph Grenny

Joseph Grenny is coauthor of four bestselling books, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.


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Crucial Conversations

QDear Crucial Skills,

How do I approach someone who seems to think I’m an idiot?

I am the Director of Finance in my organization. I am a CPA. One of my functions is to count votes at our Board meetings. It’s a little more complicated than counting hands–but not much.

The other day, our Executive Director placed in my box a “cheat sheet” of how to count votes. I’ve been doing this for two years so I find her giving me this sheet very rude, demoralizing, and demeaning. This is just an example. She does these sorts of things fairly often. How can I get her to stop?

Sincerely,

I Can Count

A Dear I Can Count,

I’m pretty torn reading your note. On the one hand I’d feel exactly as you do if someone gave me arithmetic tips after two years of working together. It’s kind of like getting a box of Tic Tacs from your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day–it’s gotta mean something, hasn’t it? On the other hand, I know in my heart that the biggest challenge you’ll face talking to your executive director is the story you’re telling yourself about her actions. You’ve decided it is “rude, demoralizing, and demeaning.” And, to be honest, that’s your problem not hers. To the degree you take offense, you’ll have a very difficult time building safety for your executive director when you have your crucial conversation.

So Master Your Story by asking, “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?” Some possibilities might include:

* She believes I made a mistake recently and she concluded (incorrectly) it was because I didn’t understand the counting policy. This is her way of coaching me without putting me on the spot. How polite!

* She didn’t understand the policy herself. She recently figured it out, wrote a note for her own use and offered me a copy since it fits my responsibilities.

* Or (given that this behavior seems to show up in other ways, too) she tends to be very critical of things in general and doesn’t realize how she comes across as a result.

Your first challenge is to separate how you see her from how you see her behavior. When you feel a sense of regard and civility toward her–and less insulted and victimized by her–you’re ready to talk. How then, do you bring it up? Here are four tips:

1. Start with Safety

Show respect by giving her the benefit of the doubt: “If it’s okay, I’d like to check something out with you. Some things you’ve done now and again have caught me off guard and I’m not sure what you meant by them–could I invite your feedback?”

2. Share the Facts

Describe factually what happened. Don’t add your judgments or accusations. For example, don’t say, “You seem to think I don’t know how to count board votes.” Rather, say, “You put this note about vote-counting in my box.” Add any other relevant experiences as well that help paint the picture you’re trying to lay out.

3. Tentatively Share Your Concern

Again, if you’ve “Mastered Your Story” you’ll be able to do this well. If you still feel hurt and insulted, you won’t. Here’s how it should sound: “After these three experiences, I’m beginning to wonder if you’ve got concerns with my competence.”

4. Invite Dialogue

Now, open yourself up to feedback. Sincerely invite her views and she’ll be much more open to then hearing yours: “I realize I could be taking this wrong. But if there’s feedback I need to get–I’m hungry for it. Or, if you’re just trying to help, I’d like to share some of my views about things that are and aren’t helpful. How do you see things?”

I hope this is useful and wish you the best in this crucial conversation.

Best regards,

Joseph

Crucial Accountability QA

Too Much Information

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Al Switzler

Al Switzler is coauthor of four bestselling books, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.

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Crucial Confrontations

Q  Dear Crucial Skills,

I work as an RN and Clinic Coordinator in an Occupational Health clinic. Recently, we had a terroristic threat from a patient and the security guards were called to stand by while the patient had his office visit.

While he was standing by, one security guard and I discovered that he’d worked with my father on our local police force forty-two years ago. When he found out who I was, the security guard started recounting—in front of my clinic staff—how terrible my father was for leaving my mom, my sister, and me (he fooled around on my Mom while they were married so she divorced him), that they thought he was not “right in the head,” and that he had a problem running away from responsibility.

While I agree with him on all counts, I was pretty stunned that he kept on with all of this in front of two of my medical assistants and am wondering how best to deal with this. We will need to rely on his presence for future visits with this abusive patient, so I don’t want to alienate him. But he needs to hear how that affected me—my staff was very embarrassed also. How do I approach this type of conversation?

Signed,

Too Much Information

A Dear Too Much:

As I read this question, I kept looking for the theme or themes that would represent typical concerns that many people face. There is good news here. I think everyone has had experiences of this sort. What do you do when someone acts in ways that embarrass you and others in public? It could be that someone shares facts about your past that shouldn’t be shared in public, uses language that is sexist or racist, tells an offensive joke or story, or tells a story about him- or herself that is indelicate or too revealing.

I’ll address this issue by working through some of the principles we teach in “Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior.”

The first principle is to Choose WHAT and IF. To help you choose what issue to talk about, we teach the acronym CPR: Content, Pattern, and Relationship. The issue at hand here is not a pattern–it’s the first time this has occurred. It has not become a relationship issue at this point. This is good news–you’re facing a content issue, so you should only talk about this particular incident. The next step is to determine IF you should speak up. Very often, if you don’t speak up you will act out your feelings by gossiping, frowning, showing angst, withdrawing, etc. It sounds like it would be hard to not act out these feelings, so choose to speak up.

Once you’ve clarified the issue and chosen to speak up, you need to move to the next step: Master My Stories. You want to avoid oversimplifying or vilifying. Ask yourself: “Why might a reasonable, rational, decent person do this? Could it be that he was not aware of what he was doing? Have I ever been oblivious to something I did? Have I ever worn a bit of lunch in my front teeth for half a day and not realized it? Could there be reasons that I’m not aware of?” There are two upsides to giving him the benefit of the doubt: 1) you don’t get all upset and angry and 2) you don’t rush in with accusations and emotions–the most common problem that people succumb to in beginning a crucial confrontation.

If you have a clear issue to discuss and your emotions and stories are in control, move the next step: Describe the Gap.

A gap is the difference between what you expected and what you observed. Clearly you don’t expect someone to talk in public the way this person did, so you are ready to open your mouth and talk to him. What do you need to remember?

First, if you haven’t prejudged him and chosen to be angry, then you have made it safe because your facial expressions, tone of voice, and words send the message, “I have an observation and a question, not an accusation and a guilt trip waiting for you.”

Second find a time and private place to talk that is convenient and safe. Then describe the gap. It might sound something like this. “Last week when you came to our clinic you recounted details about my father and personal life in front of the staff. I believe that details like that should be discussed in private. I was surprised and embarrassed that those details were shared so publicly. Can we talk about this?”

When you get off on the right foot, there is enough safety and clarity and good intention that the confrontations tend to go well.

So here’s the good news. It’s a clear, one-time issue that you can typically solve by bringing it up in safe environment. By not letting it become a pattern that affects your relationship, you will most likely maintain a good working relationship with this man and he will more than likely not repeat a behavior that he was not aware of or that he didn’t realize was so impactful.

Best wishes,

Al

Crucial Conversations QA

Control Freak Coworker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph Grenny

Joseph Grenny is coauthor of four bestselling books, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.


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Crucial Conversations

QDear Crucial Skills,

We have a secretary to a director who is a control freak. She comes across as very efficient to management, but she won’t allow the rest of us to do our jobs without meddling. This slows me and others down a lot.

Those of us who have attempted to confront her about this situation just end up on her “black list” and are then treated with contempt, making our working relationships even more miserable.

Some have considered going to her boss, but she is very careful to come across as the epitome of perfection to him. Because of that, I think many are wary of saying anything to their managers or the director for fear of payback. What is the best approach for us to take to resolve this situation?

Signed,

Stumped and Miserable

A Dear Stumped,

The first thing that might be keeping you stuck is your “story.”

One of the best predictors of success in a crucial confrontation is not your skills, but your story. It’s a difficult thing to stand apart from the story we tell and look at it dispassionately. But those who have the most control over their emotions, their actions, and their lives are those who can poke at, laugh at, observe, and change their own stories.

The first skill we teach for “Master My Stories” is learning to separate fact from story. The “facts” in your situation may be that this woman asks for a lot of information, offers criticisms, or requests to be involved in things that you wouldn’t expect her to.

The “story” you’re telling yourself is that she’s doing this because of a character flaw–she’s a “control freak.” You also see her as duplicitous–pretending to be one thing to senior management while coming across to the rest of you as another. Furthermore, your story characterizes her as petty and vengeful–someone who puts you on her “black list” if you challenge her.

This is a classic villain story. The danger in telling these kinds of stories is that it justifies us in doing almost anything in return. If we feel weak, it justifies our inaction–“How could anyone confront someone so rotten?” If we feel strong, it justifies our retribution–“She deserves what we’re doing to her!”

Something else I notice about your story is the way it portrays you and others. You are in the “victim” role here. What’s happening is not your fault. Some of you have even tried to confront this person–and been punished for it. All you want is to do your jobs well, and you have to deal with this annoying person who drags down your efficiency.

Now, please let me apologize if I sound like I’m trying to justify her and pick on you. I’m not. My guess is that she does have some unhelpful habits. But your influence with her will forever be limited not by her defensiveness but by the stories you’re telling about her and you. So long as you see her as a villain, you will “act out” that view of her in ways that make her feel unsafe with you. So long as you see yourself as an innocent victim, you will continue to be blind to the role you’re playing in limiting your effectiveness with her.

Those who are best at crucial confrontations work hard to change their victim and villain stories. They assault these stories vigorously until they reshape them to show how a reasonable, rational, and decent person might do what this other person is doing.

For example, “Perhaps she believes her greatest value is to stay informed for her boss.” (Structural Motivation) “Perhaps no one has ever respectfully shared with her the consequences of her requests in a way that would help her see how she is hurting rather than helping her boss.” (Social Ability) “Perhaps she thinks her current methods are the only way to be effective.” (Personal Ability) Brainstorming different possible sources of influence will help you better understand why people do what they do. And the better you understand others’ behavior, the more effective you’ll be at influencing it.

The second thing that might be keeping you stuck flows from the first. If she has “blacklisted” people in the past, it’s possible she did so because she’s an arrogant control-freak who is abusing her position to avoid self-examination. It’s also possible that those who confronted her were ineffective at “making it safe” for her because they saw her as a villain.

If the latter may have some truth to it, then you may be able to succeed with her by making it safe. Help her to understand your respect for her and the positive motives behind your desire to talk. Then share the natural consequences of her current actions in a way that she will care about. Demonstrate enough commitment to her interests to explore ways to help her please her boss while avoiding behavior that hinders your efficiency.

If she feels safe enough with you, she’ll be willing to listen. And if you see her as a reasonable, rational, and decent person, you have some chance of making her feel safe with you.

Good luck! And thank you for your question. It helped me once again examine the stories I tell myself about people I am trying to influence well.

Joseph

Kerrying On

Kerrying On: The Gift

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kerry Patterson

Kerry Patterson is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything.

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Kerrying On

Listen to Kerrying On via iTunes

It’s Valentine’s Day, 1968 and my mother is holding a heart-shaped box. She abruptly opens the cardboard container to reveal a pathetic looking array of chocolates—one piece partially gnawed—the rest untouched.

“You see this present?” my mother scowls. “Your dad gave it to me today.”

I’m not sure where she’s going with this, so I flash her a noncommittal smile—hoping that she’ll soon reveal why she looks like she wants to kick something.

“I want you to learn from this debacle. You’re going to be marrying soon, right? So here’s the point. Never, ever, ever give your wife a tacky present like this!”

Dad is sitting on the couch not ten feet away, pretending to read a TV Guide while his wife of twenty-eight years continues to bad-mouth him.

“What’s wrong with the present?” I ask.

“You have to ask?” she continues.

“I always heard that it was the thought that was supposed to count”—hoping to help my Dad snatch a scrap of dignity from what appeared to be the beginning of a public tongue lashing.

“Exactly!” Mom continues. “Your father gave it no thought whatsoever. First, I’m trying to cut back on sweets, so candy is a bad idea. Second, as far as candy goes, this stuff is ghastly. The dog wouldn’t eat it. You see those teeth marks? The dog spit it out. Third, your dad got this junk for free. He ordered fifty cases of motor oil at work, and as a prize the supplier gave him this box of chocolates.”

“It was twenty-five cases,” dad corrects her, as if clarifying this point is going to bolster his cause.

Mom continues, “Valentine’s Day is time for people to express their affection to the love of their life. That calls for thought. You can’t ask your secretary to run out and buy a silk scarf or dash into a convenience store at the last minute and buy a car deodorant or, worst of all, offer your loved one something you were given as a free prize and expect her to think: ‘How thoughtful!’

“You can’t be thoughtful without actually thinking. That means you have to pull your head out of the Gunsmoke reruns that you guys are connected to like some form of electronic IV and actually think about your loved one. You must ask yourself, ‘What would she think is lovely and thoughtful?’ If you buy her some last-minute, tacky little thing, you’ll be giving her one more reminder of the unsettling fact that she’s married to a guy who only thinks about her when the lights go down in the bedroom.”

“Please don’t continue that train of thought!” I mumble to myself as I silently proffer a prayer to be struck deaf.

“Do you see what I got him?” she asks as she pulls out a small box. “Your Dad has been asking for something to hold his tie clasps and cufflinks. I made this for him.”

And sure enough, it looked like Mom actually had made the box she was caressing. I’m not exactly sure what you call the contraption, but it appeared as if she had knitted Dad a shiny metal box out of steel wool.

“For a month I thought about what to get for him. And then for another month I made this all by myself.”

Mom continues to rant while I wonder (1) when will she finish with this diatribe? (One that she’s obviously been storing up for quite some time), and (2) Do you actually have to think about another person in order to be viewed as thoughtful?

Mom eventually stopped her inflammatory object lesson and huffed her way into the kitchen where she promptly prepared a lovely tuna casserole pressed into the shape of a heart. And as you’ve probably already guessed, I missed the point of what she had to say. At the time I didn’t think I missed the point, but I did.

I realized that I hadn’t been paying close enough attention to Mom’s advice two years later when I bought my wife of seven months a birthday present. I thought about the gift a lot. I looked in stores and pored through catalogs and I saved every penny I could squirrel away. Finally I found the perfect gift. It was an eight-track, quadraphonic tape player complete with speakers. It was exactly what I wanted. I coveted it. I prayed for it. I had to have it. So I bought it for her.

“What’s this?” my wife asked as she unwrapped the gift.

“It’s a quadraphonic eight-track, complete with speakers,” I squealed with the same enthusiasm I would have offered had I purchased her something that she actually wanted.

“I know what it is,” she countered. “But you don’t really think it’s my birthday present do you? You wanted this, but because it’ll play music that we’ll both listen to, you’ve convinced yourself that it’s actually a present for me. The truth is it’s for you. And you figured I wouldn’t have the nerve to call you on your little trick. Well, you were wrong.”

Busted.

At first I denied her accusation. Me—thoughtless and selfish? What was she thinking? Now that I have the advantage of thirty-five years of hindsight, I can admit that I had been a tad insensitive. I knew she didn’t care one iota about anything quadraphonic. I had turned into my father despite my mother’s vehement warning. The present wasn’t a free box of chocolates, but it was selfish and thoughtless nevertheless.

So, how long do you actually have to think about something to be judged as genuinely thoughtful? Here are ten signs that you may have thought too little, too late. (I’m writing this mostly to guys. Yes, it could be that it’s a woman who has been thoughtless, but I’m not ready to accept that alternate universe as of yet.)

Your Gift May Be Thoughtless, Selfish, and Last Minute If:

1. The “flourish” attached to the ribbon consists of an ice scraper and a Slim Jim.

2. The contents are made of “Genuine Swiss Cho-Ko-Late”

3. It comes with either a scope or a shoulder holster.

4. In some magical way, it’s supposed to make it easier to clean the bathroom.

5. It can only be purchased in a six pack.

6. It’s supposed to be worn and is just slightly larger than a tea coaster.

7. It’s a ticket to an event that is advertised as some kind of “o-rama”

8. It comes in two colors: khaki and camouflage.

9. It’s a poem (that’s good), but a limerick (that’s bad) starting with: “There once was a hot babe from Ohio. . .”

10. The label says: “This purchase helps fund Girl Scouts world wide.”

Just as Euclid informed King Ptolemy that there was “No royal road to geometry,” it would seem that there is also no royal road to offering a thoughtful gift. Nothing short of actually thinking about what the other person might want (cleverly communicating your love and devotion) will ever imply that you’ve been thoughtful. And, by the way, buying your way there never works. It may assuage your guilt, but spending a lot of money in and of itself will never say “how thoughtful.”

So, what’s a person to do? And does it really matter? With any one gift, it’s probably no big deal. Everyone should be entitled the occasional brain embolism where they buy their fiancé a Chia Pet or Clapper. But in the aggregate, what you purchase—particularly the thought behind it—communicates volumes. My business partners and I have written two books about how to communicate when the chips are down, and now I write about how to communicate (nonverbally and from a distance no less) when the chips aren’t down—when you’re supposed to be on your best behavior. The key, of course, is that you communicate your thoughtfulness by thinking about the gift a lot. As you’re thinking, here are some clues.

If you can buy something that has to be ordered several weeks in advance, that’s a good thing. If it’s special, one-of-a-kind, and reasonably priced, this too is good. Clever helps. Something fitted uniquely to one of your loved one’s finer character traits is always a home run. Romantic, but not begging for an intimate encounter, is always a plus. Handmade is good (unless it’s a hand-written coupon offering X number of hours of your “dyno-love”—making it both self-serving and last minute). In short, an ideal gift would say: “I thought about it for a long time, I searched high and low for something I knew you’d really like, I bought it, here its is, and it’s for you and you alone.”

And what did I get my wife this year you ask? One thing’s for sure—it didn’t come with the purchase of fifty cases of motor oil. I don’t have that kind of a job.

Crucial Accountability QA

The Silent Minority

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph Grenny

Joseph Grenny is coauthor of four bestselling books, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.


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Crucial Confrontations

QDear Crucial Skills,

How do you confront someone’s wrong behavior when nobody else has ever brought it up? To make matters worse, how to you bring it up when the person has been continually promoted in spite of this behavior? How could you convince someone to change when they’ve been rewarded for years in spite of what they’re doing?

Signed,

All Alone

A Dear All Alone,

Yuck! It’s never fun to feel like you have to pay for generations of neglect by those who should have been better leaders. And yet, that’s life, isn’t it? Our research suggests that 10 percent of people in most companies are having the crucial confrontations for the other 90 percent. The good news is that by having them, you are also benefiting yourself!

Here are three thoughts to consider when dealing with someone no one else has confronted.

1. “Is It Just Me?”

Before stepping up to the crucial confrontation, be sure to use the “Choose If” skill. Ask yourself whether you are the only one who seems concerned about the person’s behavior. If you are, then perhaps you have unrealistic or idiosyncratic expectations. And you just need to change your expectations. If, on the other hand, others are clearly concerned–as expressed in gossip, unexplained transfers of the problem person, etc.–then you’ve got a real issue here. Perhaps you should confront it.

2. Master Your Story

This is a tricky one. Often you find yourself feeling incensed at this person’s horrific behavior and just wish you could unload all your frustration on him or her for this long-term inconsideration. If you feel this way, slow down a bit. You need to realize that this is not someone who is intentionally acting up and enjoying every minute of a free ride. Other people are as responsible for this person’s misbehavior or performance as the person is. They have enabled it for years and this person may honestly believe he or she is doing just fine. Change your story by acknowledging some of the social influences that have brought you to this situation–and you’ll feel a bit more respectful of the person you’re about to confront. For example, an African American manager we know of confronted a colleague about racist behavior very respectfully because she realized this was behavior other colleagues had allowed to go on for fifteen years. This made her more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until she gave him a chance to change.

3. Be Aware of the Story this Person May Tell about YOU

Most of us don’t want to believe we have a problem. We’ll do anything to make the bearer of bad news out to be the real problem rather than revise our view of ourselves. In the circumstances you’ve outlined, you’re especially vulnerable because you appear to disagree with everyone else in the company! When you share this negative feedback, avoid becoming the “villain” by doing two things:

a) Make it especially safe. Express respect and share your positive intentions thoroughly.

b) Don’t bear the burden of history. Start in the present. If you confront the whole historical set of problems and violations, you’ll almost inevitably end up the villain. And you’ll take more responsibility than you need to. Instead start in the present. Confront the “content” issue first–an immediate example of the behavior concerning you. See if you can come to agreement about the consequences of this behavior and its impropriety. If so, you’ve made progress. If future violations occur, you can move to the pattern and relationship confrontations later.

I admire you for raising the concern and wish you the best as you become the first true friend this person has had in years in your organization.

Warm regards,

Joseph