The Four Conversations aren’t just for the office. We communicate in our real lives too. I just had some great results out of having a “closure conversation” with a dear friend. She had been unhappy – and unusually touchy – for several months. I had been patient and kind with her, because I knew she was still upset about her failure to get the promotion she wanted. But sometimes enough is enough.
At first I couldn’t see how to handle it. Of course, use the Closure Conversation’s “Four A’s”. Acknowledge the facts: You had a big disappointment, and have been in a miserable frame of mind ever since. Appreciate the people: I care about you, and you have been a good and trustworthy friend and colleague for many years. Apologize for mistakes and misunderstandings: Ummm, not sure I know what to say here. Maybe I don’t need this one? Amend broken agreements: Not sure here either.
But I couldn’t stand it much longer. The irritability, the whining and complaining about every little thing that “went wrong” or “didn’t work”. I should have put my foot down about this situation months ago.
Aha! It’s not about her, it’s about me. I hadn’t communicated!
Apologize for mistakes and misunderstandings: I apologize for not pointing this out earlier, but your misery is now driving me nuts. You need to pull yourself out of this, if not for yourself, then do it for the people around you. You’re creating an issue and a burden for others.
Amend broken agreements: You and I have an understanding that we will be honest with one another. But I let this go too long before letting you know we have to do something to break up this negative cycle for you. You can count on me to be more alert in the future: I will pay more attention to the moment when something upsetting – for either of us – turns into a chronic habit of negativity and complaint.
Result: Certain parts of that Closure Conversation sounded a lot like an argument. But I kept going, and fortunately we have enough background relationship that she was able to hear what I was saying. We’re back on track, without the irritability and pessimism, and even showing some glimmers of relaxed optimism. Whew. I’m reminded that the four conversations work wherever there are human beings.