We recently received three copies of our book, The Four Conversations: Daily Communication that Gets Results, from our publisher and they were in Chinese (see photo). What a treat to see how something you wrote looks in another language! A colleague of mine has had several of his textbooks translated into other languages, but none of them are in Chinese – he is jealous. Looking though the book is really strange because you can’t tell what any of it says. I will have to ask one of my MBA students who speaks Chinese to tell me what the cover says.
My daughter and I recently visited my mother at her home in Kentucky. My mother is 89 (will be 90 early next year) and is concerned about who will “pay her bills” (take care of her) in the remaining years of her life. It was an invitation for an understanding conversation, which my daughter and I accepted.
Like many people her age, my mother can’t really imagine that she won’t always be a fully functioning adult right up to the end. So she hasn’t really considered her options, what they involve, who could assist her, where she might go, etc. – all the things that understanding conversations consider. So over lunch, we talked about what some of the options and some of the down sides. Since understanding conversations are two-way interactions, we listened to her concerns, objections, and questions, not to dismiss or resolve them, but to fully understand them. There were times in the conversation when neither she nor I liked or agreed with what the other had to say. But understanding conversations aren’t intended to convince the other side or to get your way, they are intended to have people understand what is involved in accomplishing something of interest to them.
As a result of this conversation, I now understand more about my mother’s concerns and what needs to be taken into account moving forward. My mother also knows more about her options and at the end of the visit thanked me for helping her come up with a plan for who would pay her bills. We will need more understanding conversations before we get to the point of taking action, but we have begun and though it may be frustrating, the conversations are important for understanding how she wants to complete her time here.
Good working relationships are essential to getting work done and to a satisfying work place. But what can we do when relationships turn sour? You could have a closure conversation with the person.
One of the managers in my Mastery in Execution class had a very poor working relationship with a woman at work and it was affecting his work. As he reports it, “She does poor work and it is frequently late. I can’t count on her and her failure to do the work is costing me. Do you have any recommendations for what I can do to make her do what she she is suppose to?”
As we talked, he revealed that because he did not particularly like the woman, he didn’t interact with her the same as he did with others with whom he had a good relationship. He mentioned that he tended to be more abrupt and less engaging with her, simply telling her what he wanted rather than really taking the time to talk to her. Additionally, he was dismissive of the reasons she gave for not getting things done and got quickly frustrated when she failed to perform.
Based on what he said, I proposed that he could have a closure conversation with her in which he (1) acknowledge the breakdown in their relationship, (2) apologize for how he had interacted with her and the impact it must have had on her, and (3) express his interest in building a more effective working relationship with her. Not surprising, he was very hesitant about having such a conversation and said “I don’t think I can do that or that it will work, but thanks.”
Several days later, the manager approached me after class and reported “I had the closure conversation with the woman I told you about. It was hard for me to do that, but it really did change things between us. She told me she knew I treated her differently than others, but didn’t know why and that she too, wanted a better working relationship. It turns out that she frequently didn’t understand my directions and didn’t feel like she could ask me for clarification. I was shocked because I thought I was clear! Anyway, we agreed I would take more time to explain what I wanted and to help her when she has problem or questions. Things are already much better, thanks.”
Have a relationship that is not up to what you would like it to be? You might consider having a closure conversation with them.