Thursday, June 05, 2014

#edsymposium "Having Hard Conversations" - Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams

Having Hard Conversations (Corwin)

Finding your voice around what matters.

How do we help one another grow as adults?

Training adults is different than teaching students!

None of her training on how to manage groups, etc, covered the hard conversations.

"Ready, Aim..." approach - talk to friends, spouse but not actually do anything about it. Lose sleep, impacts health.

"Ready, Fire!" - Speak quickly, say too much, get defensive

Neither of the above are helpful.

What is a "hard" conversation?

  • "That was hurtful." - something someone said that was not addressed. "How" things are said.
  • A difficult feedback situation. (Not necessarily supervisory) Peer-to-peer.
  • "We" have goals, "we" have projects, etc
  • Rollout of initiatives that might meet resistance.
  • State Department conversations
John Lewis, Rep GA - "Get into trouble... necessary trouble." - What do you stand for? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? 

Every adult should know how to talk to another adult effectively in hard conversations. 
Builds cultures of excellence; sense of urgency around the work

We all need help to become more aware, empathetic. Need to learn what our contribution is to a given problem and what we could do to be a part of a solution.

Humane growth-producing conversations.

Coaching, Questioning, Curiosity - Coaching stance. May not need the hard conversation. But, you may when: practice is educationally or professionally unsound for students or staff, physically unsafe, emotionally damaging to someone.

Think about your own criteria for having hard conversations.

Participants encouraged to think about a situation - their own case study - to share and/or think about.

What are the circumstances?
What is bothering you?
What are some reason you haven't said anything yet, or that you said what you did?

Why do we hesitate?
  • Want to be pleasing
  • Safety - physical, emotional, financial
  • Comfort
  • No sense of urgency
  • Perfectionism - internal need. Be willing to be imperfect in a hard conversation.
  • Distrust - of self or other
  • Too big a shift in role expectations
  • Priorities/survival
  • Identity
  • Fatigue
  • Personality
  • Intent
Doing the hard thinking before the conversation.

Ref: Debra Meyerson's Tempered Radicals (Amazon)

Participants were asked to read through several pages of questions and pick the top 5 that apply to each in the current case study situation.


What are other factors might need ot be considered?

  • Professional/Student Expectations - define the expectations
  • Being prepared
  • Scripting and trigger words
  • Location of the conversation
  • Body language
If I speak up, do I have an action plan?

Outcome mapping - Garmston & Wellman (The Adaptive School)

  • What is the problem and what do you want to see?
  • Clarity, clarity, clarity
  • Must be able to answer "What do you mean?"
Scripting and Trigger Words (ref: Crucial Conversations - Amazon)
  • "I have noticed..."
  • "I am beginning to think/feel..."
  • "What is your take on it?"
  • "When you say X, I feel Y..." (Also body langauge)
  • "Tell me what makes you say that."
  • "I am not willing to agree with that generalization."
What, whens, wheres
  • Palms down

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