Dr. W Craig Gilliam
Achiever / Learner / Adaptability / Maximizer / Relator
Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach 4/19/2021
After 25+ years of working with businesses, community organizations, and congregations in robust and sometimes difficult conversations and teaching in the field, the importance of creating and sustaining a container for conversations is essential. This article offers some components to consider when preparing for those robust conversations. Along with Gilliam and Associates, LLC (www.gilliamandassociates.com), Dr. Gilliam recently became a collaborative partner with the Wi2Co-Lab Team.
The following is a list of some best practices I have observed, utilized, and practiced over the years working with business and congregational leadership as they prepare for difficult conversations. The challenge is how to increase the opportunities for these challenging, anxious interactions to yield positive outcomes, or, at least, how to improve the possibilities for productive ones? There are no guarantees in the dance of human interactions, especially around hot topics, but good practices and self-awareness yield better outcomes and responses.
While not exhaustive, Wi2CoLab and I make this hand-out available, hoping it will help you and your organization prepare for those problematic encounters and discourses on the horizon.
• Prepare in advance both the space around and within you.
• Seek wise guidance from a trusted, wise friend, associate, or professional.
• Have a clear focus or purpose for the conversation. When possible, put your focus or intention for the conversation in the form of an honest question because questions open space and invite conversation.
• Focus on curiosity, compassion, and understanding. Pete Senge refers to a focus on inquiry and vulnerability rather than advocacy (The Fifth Discipline, 2006).
• Manage yourself first and foremost. Focus on regulating your own anxiety and reactivity. When needed, take a three deep breaths to calm and ground self.
• Take a break, if needed, to calm emotions.
• Use silence for heavy lifting. Do not be afraid of the pause or deep silence. Silence is its own language.
• Take clear stances without steamrolling or sugar-coating. Practice beforehand on stating your stance, focus, or question in a calm, non-anxious, non-reactive way.
• Stay connected to the other person(s) in a genuine way, if possible.
• Honor their agency, even if you do not like his/her choices or decisions.
• Regardless of what happens, be fair, honest, and a person of integrity.
• What would you add to this list? What are you learning?
If we can be of assistance to you, please let us know. Thanks for your courage and for reaching out.
Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. Revised and updated. New York, NY: Currency.