The holidays are coming up, and if there is one thing that I know about business it is that the holidays are an especially stressful time!
Everyone wants time off for one reason or another, and employees can get frustrated if they don’t get all the time that they want. Plenty of businesses struggle during the holidays because communication suffers due to the emotional charge that the holidays hold.
It’s a perfect time to revisit the tools brought to us at Grow2020 by Dana Pharant.
Of all the speakers we have had at the Grow Retreat, Dana stands out as the only world-class speaker, who is also a former dominatrix. Her time spent in that profession equipped her with the insight and tools for handling tough situations and conversations in a way that puts everyone at ease. As she put it,
“People have to feel completely at ease with you if they are going to [share their intimate desires with you].”
Her ability to put her clients at ease is the same ability that can be used in difficult conversations with employees about holiday time off and the like. So I’m going to dive into some of the information she gave us to practice prior to those tough conversations.
Why Do We Lose Our Heads?
If we want to handle tough situations, we need to understand why they are so tough for us to handle. This is the first thing that Dana taught us.
Often we experience arguments or conversations and then hours later think of something that would have been perfect to say in that moment. Ever wonder why you can’t think of it at that moment?
Dana explained that the more primal part of our brain takes over in those moments. In difficult conversations we tend to go into fight or flight mode where we are pumped full of adrenaline, which prevents us from being able to use the logical parts of our brains. But just having the knowledge that you’re going to be tempted to act illogically in difficult conversations can help you take a moment to breathe and think before you speak.
Not Every Conversation is the Same Difficulty Level
Although it might seem a bit like a Captain Obvious statement, every conversation is different.
But what Dana taught us about different conversations is that they have different levels of difficulty. Just because a conversation is difficult, doesn’t mean it is the same level of difficulty as another.
E. G., A conversation about whether to have 2 or 3 days off around the holidays probably isn’t as difficult as the conversation where you have to fire someone around the holidays.
Recognizing that these conversations have different levels of difficulty helps equip you to handle your own emotions, by understanding that your emotions related to a specific conversation might be more intense than another. It gives you the mental preparation to know whether you’ll have to exhibit more or less self-regulation during the conversation.
When you’re walking into an emotionally charged conversation, it’s a great time to pause, breathe, ask yourself where the heightened emotions are coming from, and take a minute to resolve any of your own angst before bringing that to the conversation.
- Perhaps you’re getting ready to let go of one of your team members and are anxious about it. When you ask yourself why you’re anxious, you realize that it’s because you feel you should have done more to support this employee in the past. At this moment, you can ask yourself if you’re willing to give this individual a second chance and change the conversation from “You’re fired!” to “You’re on a performance improvement plan, and here’s what I’m going to do to help you stay with us!” Or, if you are no longer able to invest in the employee, create a list of what you can learn from the experience for your next employee encounter.
It allows you to move into the conversation in a clearer headspace to take a few minutes to process!
Check Your Judgments at the Gate
Everyone holds judgments, regardless of who you are.
Dana reminded us of this, and reminded us that those judgments are often held against ourselves. We all judge one another (and ourselves) at different times and places, and those judgments only make tough conversations more difficult. Judgments create more emotional charge, and add to the "fight or flight" feeling we experience during difficult conversations.
The first step in handling those judgments is to recognize and put them on a shelf for the duration of the conversation, to enable a more level-headed interaction.
Dana explained it like checking a bag at the airport.
If the plane ride is the conversation, you need to put your judgments away from you for the duration of the ride. You can bring all those judgments back to yourself and deal with them after the conversation if you want. But if you want to have a successful conversation that doesn’t leave everyone upset, you need to check your judgments at the gate.
- If you’re going into a conversation where you have to deny the request for extra days off at Christmas, stop and think about all the different thoughts and feelings you have regarding the situation.
- Maybe you’re going into the conversation knowing you have a good reason to deny the request, and feeling like they’re just trying to weasel a few more paid-leave days out of the company. At that point, you have to set aside the feelings you have about their motivation. Maybe they are just trying to weasel a few more paid days off days out of the company, but coming into the conversation expecting that is only going to cause you to treat them with unintentional contempt regardless of what their true motivations are. To set aside your judgments in this situation, you must remind yourself that you don’t know their true motivation. For the purpose of the conversation, try to see them as just an individual in the company: not a person trying to steal from the company.
- Or maybe you know you have a good reason to deny the request, but you feel like it makes you a horrible boss to deny the request. But if you know that you have a good reason to deny the request, you have to remind yourself that the conversation is about a few extra days of paid leave and not about your quality of management. Then, after the conversation, if you really feel like you’re a horrible boss, make a note to come back at a later date and review different situations from the past and how you’ve handled them.
In general, reminding yourself of the objective aspects of the conversation and not making assumptions about yourself or the employee (or, recognizing those assumptions and reminding yourself of what you actually know vs. what your assumption is) is a good way to set your judgments aside for the duration of the conversation.
And remember not to beat yourself up.
Ok, this is me talking for a minute.
Progress doesn’t happen overnight in any area of life (as a musician who took 2 years to prepare a 30 minute concert, I’m very familiar with this concept!). Performing under pressure takes practice, and is a skill that you develop. It took me a while to begin implementing these bits of information into my life. But I’ve experienced success through this, and I can guarantee that your tough holiday conversations will go much more smoothly if you work on applying this information.
About the Author:
Susannah Scheller has been part of the workforce since childhood filling a verity of part-time jobs until she found the world of Social Media, content creation and marketing strategy execution in 2015 and fell in love. Susannah grew up surrounded by successful entrepreneurs and dedicated herself to learning from Stephanie by watching and listening and was rewarded by becoming one of the first permanent hires for Grow Disrupt in 2016 to work directly under Stephanie's coaching & training. Susannah is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Music in Fort Worth, Texas while managing the Social Media & content creation and distribution for Grow Disrupt. Beyond her degree and tutelage under Stephanie, Susannah regularly educates herself with business blogs, books, and by using her sparse moments of free time while running the AV for Grow Disrupt events to learn from the speakers!