Four Steps to Help Pharmacy Owners With Difficult Conversations
Have you been putting off or avoiding a difficult conversation that you need to have with an employee, co-worker or family member? Or maybe you’ve tried and it didn't go well. Do you fear that talking about the situations will only make it worse? Do you feel stuck? The following four steps will help you transition from feeling stuck to controlling those difficult conversations in your pharmacy business.
Before we get into the steps, first things first - prepare yourself. Prior to having the conversation, prepare yourself by working on YOU, your thoughts, opinions and feelings. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my purpose for having the conversation?
- What do I hope to accomplish?
- What would be my ideal outcome?
You may think you have honorable goals, like educating your employee, but be aware that your language could be critical or condescending. You may think you want to support, but be careful not to punish. Some purposes are more useful than others. Work on yourself so that you enter the conversation with a supportive purpose.
What assumptions are you making about this person’s intentions? You may feel intimidated, belittled, ignored, disrespected or marginalized, but be cautious about assuming that was their intention. Impact does not necessarily equal intent.
What “buttons” of yours are being pushed? Are you more emotional than the situation warrants? You may still have the conversation, but go into it knowing that some of the heightened emotions have to do with you.
How is your attitude toward the conversation influencing your perception of it? If you think this is going to be difficult, it probably will, but by believing some good will come of it, that will likely be the case. Adjust your attitude for maximum effectiveness.
What might they be thinking about this situation? Are they aware of the problem? If so, how do you think they perceive it? What are their needs and fears? What solution do you think they would suggest? Begin to reframe this person as a partner.
What are your needs and fears? Are there any common concerns? How have you contributed to the problem and how have they? The majority of the work in any conflict conversation is on yourself. No matter how well the conversation begins, you must stay in charge of yourself, your purpose and your emotional energy – this is where your power lies.
Having difficult conversations can be tough, but practicing prior to the actual conversation may help you prepare. See the various possibilities and visualize yourself handling each with ease. Envision the outcome you want. Now, let's get into the steps...
Step #1: Inquiry
This step is all about learning. Cultivate an attitude of discovery and curiosity. Learn as much as possible about your employee and their point of view. Watch their body language and listen for the unspoken energy. What are they not saying?
Don't rush the conversation, you will get your turn. Let your employee talk until finished, only interrupting to acknowledge them. Whatever you hear, don’t take it personally because it’s not about you.
Step #2: Acknowledgment
Acknowledgment means you are showing your employee that you understand. In this step, explain what you have heard back to your employee. Acknowledge whatever you can, including your own defensiveness if it comes up.
In your conversation you may find yourself getting defensive, but remember acknowledgment is not associated with agreement. Keep them separate. By saying, “this sounds really important to you,” doesn’t mean you are agreeing with their decisions.
Step #3: Advocacy
When you sense that your employee has expressed all their energy on the topic, it’s your turn. What can you see from your perspective that they’ve missed? Help clarify your position without minimizing theirs.
For example, you can advocate by saying, “From what you’ve told me, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I’m not a team player. And I think I am. When I introduce problems with a project, I’m thinking about its long-term success. I don’t mean to be a critic, though perhaps I sound like one. Maybe we can talk about how to address these issues so that my intention is clear.”
Step #4: Problem-Solving
In this step you will begin building solutions. Ask your employee what they think would work, and from there, find something that you like and build on it. If the conversation becomes adversarial, go back to inquiry in Step 1. Asking for the other’s point of view can enable them to be more willing to engage. If you’ve been successful in adjusting your attitude and engaging with inquiry, building sustainable solutions will be easy.
Based on the book, The Magic of Conflict, by Thomas F. Crum.