Getting Started: Begin From The Third Story

Posted by Beetle B. on Sat 13 May 2017

A bad beginning can crater the conversation. But a good one helps you immensely.

Why Our Typical Openings Don’t Help

Don’t dive in with what you have in mind.

We Begin Inside Our Own Story

Don’t start with your story from your perspective. If they agreed with your story, there wouldn’t be a need for the conversation.

We Trigger Their Identity Conversation From The Start

Our story usually has a judgment embedded.

Step One: Begin From The Third Story

The third story is from a relatively disinterested 3rd party.

Think Like a Mediator

Mediator, not arbitrator! (S)he can describe the problem in a way that rings true for both parties. It’s easy to describe it for only one side. It is hard to describe it for all sides. Aim for this.

Not Right or Wrong, Not Better or Worse, Just Different

Key: Learn to describe the gap: The difference between your story and the other person’s story. Just a description. No judgment.

Important: You need not know the other person’s story to start this way! Just guess it and state it tentatively. The other side will notice you’re trying. Acknowledge you don’t really know but would like to find out.

If They Start The Conversation, You Can Still Step To The Third Story

Take what the other person says and use it as their half of a description from the third story.

Step Two: Extend An Invitation

Describe Your Purposes

Let them know up front that the goal is to understand the other person better and share your own, and talk about how to go forward.

Make it known that this isn’t a campaign to change them.

Invite, Don’t Impose

You cannot force a conversation. Your goal is not to set the purpose of the conversation. It is to offer and discuss a possible purpose. Setting it is a joint task.

Make Them Your Partner In Figuring It Out

The other side needs a role in managing the problem. Do not make it seem like they are the problem (e.g. “Since you’re new here…”)

Ask “Can you help me understand…?”

You may want to share your internal struggle in casting them in a positive role.

Be Persistent

But not imposing

Some Specific Kinds of Conversations

Delivering Bad News

If you have bad news to deliver, state it up front.

Making Requests

I wonder if it would make sense…” Do not make it a demand. Invite exploration on whether a raise is fair or makes sense. You do not know if you deserve a raise without hearing your boss’s side. This is why you are anxious about it.

Revisiting Conversations Gone Wrong

You know some people are hypersensitive about something (from past experience).

Talk About How To Talk About It

The way things usually go when we try to have this conversation…” is the problem you are trying to solve. Describe it from the third story.

A Map For Going Forward: Third Story, Their Story, Your Story

What To Talk About: The Three Conversations

Talk about past experiences, intentions, impact of their behavior on you. The identity conversation

Explore Where Each Story Comes From

My reactions have a lot to do with my experiences in a previous job”

Share The Impact on You

I don’t know whether you intended it, but I felt extremely uncomfortable.”

Take Responsibility For Your Contributions

There are a number of things I’ve done to make it worse”

Describe Feelings

I’m anxious to bring it up, at the same time, we need to talk about it”

Reflect on the Identity Issues

This issue concerns me because I don’t like thinking of myself as someone who…”

tags : communication, dc