The best conversations you'll ever have.

Why, why, why am I calling?!   Sh*t!  Just hang up, you don’t have to do this!

I’m getting sweaty, my pulse quickens, I pace some more..

F*%K, its still ringing……. Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t

Hello?

I take a deep breath and answer.

Every single one of us has gone through the agony of making ‘that call’. The shaky voice, sweaty palm phone call of doom. Whether its a conversation breaking bad news or confronting someone or even ringing to apologize. Having hard conversations is a reality of life.

You would think that with time these conversations get easier but honestly I still have to trick myself into having them. The anticipation, the planning, the call and then the aftermath is all a big squishy ball of anxiety and fear.

I don’t believe anyone enjoys confrontation, a lot of people say they do, however I reckon it is a front for wanting to appear macho and tough BUT secretly all they want is a hug from their mother. It is my view that humans inherently enjoy peace and crave harmony however the dichotomy is to achieve this goal we must tackle problems head on and resolve issues. Unfortunately our physiology is hard-wired to kick in with any perceived threat. These ‘conversations of doom’ are one big perceived threat.

Being a Doctor having hard conversations is part of the job description. Dealing with angry and upset patients and families is often a daily occurrence. While I’m no expert, I have picked up a few tips that help me when I have to have a courageous conversation.

SET THE SCENE

Ensure that you have this courageous conversation in an appropriate setting. A quiet room or somewhere private or if you are calling someone ask them if they have time to talk. In some situations it is important that the person has support during the conversation.

PREPARE THEM & EXPLAIN THE PROCESS

Explain what you are about to say e.g. “unfortunately I have some bad news” OR if this is a confrontation “I have to speak to you about some negative feedback we have had”. Then once you have said this PAUSE give them a minute to digest what you just said. THEN explain that the purpose of this courageous conversation is to reach a conclusion and plan a way forward.

KEEP IT SHORT

Say what you have to say in the smallest amount of words possible. Don’t overload with detail. Say what you mean, mean what you say and don’t be mean saying it.

PAUSE & WAIT

Let what you have just said sink in. Let them register what has been said and give them time to respond. Wait until they speak! Don’t fill the silence with your jibber jabber.

EMPATHY

Have empathy. Receiving bad, sad or mad news is hard. So don’t be a douche and make it harder.

SUMMARIZE & REFLECT

After the person has had some time to digest what is being said they will often have questions. Use a simple technique of summarising the situation and reflect this back to the person. This will often lead to a better understanding of the problem and help to find a way forward to resolve the issue.

Courageous conversations can be a source of growth and change. More often than not these conversations lead to better outcomes. So put your Big Girl Pants on and make that call you have been avoiding. It could be the best conversation you’ve ever had.