March 18, 2021

Tools for (Potentially) Head-Exploding Conversations

Every now and then we find ourselves in conversations where our internal monologue is,

“How is it even possible that this person doesn’t understand why this is irritating/upsetting/disruptive?”

Which often leads to, “How can I get through to them?”

Now I am not talking about the kinds of “conversations” that erupt on social media: conversations where no one is interested in anyone else’s point of view, their sole interest is putting forward their own.

I am talking about conversations where there is an imperative for—at minimum—an understanding of the others’ point of view even if we don’t accept it.

Let me give you an example:

Perhaps you have a colleague who never turns their camera on during Zoom meetings, and whose response to the suggestion that their non-present presence is disconcerting is,

“I’m not trying to be disruptive.”

What to do?

In these moments you will get further, faster if you focus on impact rather than intention.

How would this sound?

“I recognize that your intention is not to disrupt, but that is the impact a blank screen has on others—they have no way of knowing if you are tuned in.”

This is often when you hear something along the lines of,

“Honestly, why is everyone so sensitive?”

While it is tempting in these moments to accept the premise and go down the rabbit hole by responding, “It’s not that everyone is so sensitive…” Or “Perhaps they are too sensitive…”

Stay away from a “feelings” conversation.

Instead, stay in an “actions” conversation.

In this instance this might sound like, “If you don’t want to keep your camera on for the entirety of the meeting, my request is that you appear on screen for a minimum of X% of the time it is in session.”

I hope keeping your focus on impact vs. intention and actions vs. feelings will make things easier the next time your head starts to throb…


Interested in other tools for your tool box? These will help the next time you have to speak in public, “Stressed About Speaking in Public? Here are Tools to Calm You Down”