Think Before You Speak: Importance of Knowing Your Motive

Before engaging in a Crucial Conversation it’s important to have an understanding of your own motive. You need to know what you really want to achieve. Otherwise the conversation is likely to fail.

It’s not uncommon for us to hold the conversation with ourselves, we try to think about what the other person might say back, gauge their reaction, and in most cases prepare for the worst. Our motive becomes being right, blaming, punishing, or avoiding the issue altogether.

To make sure you start the conversation off away from damaging emotions but on the right foot ask yourself:

  • What do I want for myself?
  • What do I want for the other person?
  • What do I want for the relationship?
  • What do I want for the organisation?

The motives that emerge are much more positive.

  • A healthier working relationship
  • Better results
  • More success for you and the other person
  • Gaining knowledge

Recently, a colleague (Candace) had to ask herself, “What do I really want?” in the midst of a crucial conversation. This question changed the trajectory of the conversation.

Candace was listening to a colleague give a presentation and their opening remarks offended her. As her blood began to boil, she became frustrated and tuned out of the conversation.

As her emotions began to take over, she thought, “I teach this stuff! I’m the expert on tough conversations with effective dialogue!”. Candace took a deep breath and decided to go talk to him afterwards.

Candace confidently walked over to him, thinking, “Get out the cameras! Watch the teacher of Crucial Conversations have a crucial conversation.” As she started sharing her initial thoughts, he immediately got defensive.

What has just happened? Candace had just found him guilty, she had told herself she was right and not taken the time to look at her own motive.

“Realising that that I’d judged him. I found him guilty of being offensive, and now I was letting him have it.”

Anytime we hold court in our minds and find the other person guilty, we are likely to fail. It wasn’t too late, In the midst of the conversation, Candace stopped and asked herself, “What do I really want?”

She restarted the conversation and asked for help in understanding what she had initially taken offence from. She came to realise what her college had said was not offensive at all. If she had of listened a little longer before tuning out so early, he went on to explain himself in his presentation.

Candace shifted her motive from wanting to be right to wanting to understand. His emotion shifted from being defensive to being open to having a conversation.

How often does this happen to us in real life, right?

We see something, we judge, and then we don’t even realise the person has apologised or redeemed themselves.

Opening a conversation, such as this example with Candace, benefits both parties involved. Her college went on to revaluate that other people may come to the same conclusion Candace did with the opening of his presentation. Their relationship strengthened and they became more open with each other.

Avoiding problems is no way to get results. But, there’s more than one way to be direct. Crucial Conversations provides a way of being direct that leads to greater results. Having the right motive makes the difference.

People often say they have a healthy goal, but don’t act like it. Too often they say things like, “I’m approachable. If anyone has a problem, they should come and talk to me. If someone has criticism, they should tell me to my face. If someone has an idea, I want to hear it.”

Then, when those people are approached, they actually get defensive or shut down. They stop listening or look at their cell phones while others talk to them.

Even though we may say we are approachable, we often don’t act like it.

If there’s one thing that increases the effectiveness of your high-stakes conversations, it’s asking yourself in the moment, “What do I really want?”

When we fail to hold effective crucial conversations, a culture of silence begins to take root.

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