Navigating Hard Conversations — Episode #159 with Sharon Stolt
Think of a difficult conversation that you are in the middle of, or one that you’ve recently had.
Maybe it’s onboarding a new team member, or working with a client. Maybe it’s with your partner or your spouse, and you’re trying to negotiate all those logistics of parenting. Maybe it’s with the grandparents, your kids, your boss, a colleague—whoever it is, I am sure that you have had the experience of how challenging it can be to go through a hard conversation.
For me, I avoid them. I panic. I worry. I stress. I get really sweaty. I get nervous. I stammer. I try to keep the peace. There are so many strategies I have to try to avoid having hard conversations, or try to avoid ruffling any feathers and those strategies don’t necessarily serve me. The stakes get high, people get frustrated. Sometimes when you do end up having them, you both lose sight of what it was that you wanted in the first place, or you win, but you don’t really feel you won, because what is winning?
Today on the podcast, we get to have Sharon Stolt join us to teach us what to do and how to start the art of having challenging and uncomfortable conversations.
Sharon Stolt is a global learning and development leader, a dynamic facilitator and an instructional designer specializing in leadership and manager development. She has taught and designed innovative training programs for Fortune 500 companies and small startups and she helps thousands of people communicate better and lead more effectively. She takes us through how to think about having hard conversations, how to frame them, what our goals and objectives should be, and how to keep learning throughout all of them.
When you improve your ability to communicate and navigate hard conversations, you’ll be a better leader, a better parent, and you’ll be a better advocate. Join us for this important conversation.
The Startup Pregnant Podcast — Episode #159
In this episode:
How to start hard conversations—the framework and the mindset you need to begin.
Why a lecture is different than a conversation, and how to know the difference.
What to do when you “get it wrong” (and you will get it wrong).
- A discussion of the book, Crucial Conversations.
- A discussion of the book, Never Split The Difference.
- What it looks like to be a good listener and a good conversationalist.
Quotes from the episode:
“It’s important to reflect on how that conversation could have gone better. I ask myself, I wonder what I could have done differently.”
“You will do it wrong. You will learn it and you will do it wrong over and over. Get okay doing it wrong and strive to do better tomorrow.”
“When people come to me and they’re saying, ‘Oh, I have to have this tough conversation with this person and I don’t know how to begin.’ The first thing I do is I sit down and I say, ‘All right, what do you want to accomplish in this conversation? What’s your goal or objective?” ‘ Because, often without thinking about it, our secret goal (if we were to admit it out loud) is to win the conversation, to prove we are right and they are wrong. If we are going into it that way, it is going to backfire. It will not work.”
“Truly, the outcome we want is to understand and to be understood. Through that, we can build a stronger relationship and aim for what they often refer to as that win-win outcome. If you can shift your approach and shift your thinking to ‘how can I go into this conversation to understand and to build a stronger relationship?’ then you are on the right path. The reason you’re on the right path is you are starting to become open to possibility.”
“When you develop the ability to write well, to communicate well, to say what you actually think, and to identify the emotions that you’re having during a conversation—this will make you better, not just in your job, but across everything you do.”
“Words aren’t working.”
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A few years ago, when we first had children, my husband talked to his workplace about parental leave. He knew that while he’d like to be home during the first few weeks during and after the birth, he was also interested in being able to be around with his kids while they grew up. So, the summer after our first kid was born, he shifted his schedule to work from 8am to 4pm. From there, he advocated for taking a four-week leave every summer to spend time with his kids. We’re not taking a full sabbatical this year because of the pandemic, but we will still push pause on a few things where we can.
Begin writing a post that says “Working parents are not okay.”‘ Delete sentences because no one is okay. There isn’t really a comparison game to be played here. Call your friend and realize that you’re having trouble stringing words together. Hang up the telephone because both of your children and pushing buttons on the phone and you can’t actually have a real conversation while children and buttons are in close proximity. What was it that they said? “Opening my computer is like a pavlovian response for my child.” Yeah, that.
Every morning lately, I’ve been posting a selfie to my Facebook page and my Instagram page. Right now it feels like going to the coffee shop—I get to pop in, say good morning to people all around the world, check-in with my neighbors and parents and friends, and then start the day.
Sarah K Peck
Founder, Startup Pregnant
Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Pregnant, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Pregnant Podcast and Let's Talk, her second podcast. Previously, she worked at Y Combinator backed One Month, Inc, a company that teaches people to code in 30 days, and before that she was a writing and communications consultant.
She’s a 20-time All-American swimmer who successfully swam the Escape from Alcatraz nine separate times, once wearing only a swim cap and goggles to raise $33k for charity: water. She’s written for more than 75 different web publications and and has delivered speeches and workshops at Penn, UVA, Berkeley, Harvard, Craft & Commerce, WDS, and more.