In our last session for the school year, we had the opportunity to learn from our great leaders at Holdsworth. To piggyback off Julia Funk’s Listening as a Leadership Strategy from earlier this month, Crucial Conversations and Listening go hand in hand. Not just in education, but in our daily lives, we tend to put off or avoid those uncomfortable situations.
Identifying a Crucial Conversation
What makes a conversation difficult, and how does one know when you are in one? Critical discussions take place when there are opposing opinions, strong emotions, and high stakes. Anyone can remember a conversation where they wished things had gone differently.
Preparing for a Crucial Conversation
- Identify your Motive
The first thing that can deteriorate a crucial conversation is not behavior, but our motive. When thinking about your motivation, there are unhealthy and healthy motives. If the purpose of the talk is to be right, to save face, blame or avoid conflict, then the reason is harmful. If the use of the discussion is to learn the truth, produce results, or strengthen the relationship, then the intent is a healthy one. So before having that essential conversation, start with the heart and ask: What is it that I want from this situation for myself, others, the relationship, or the school? What would my behavior look like if I wished these things? Change what you want, and you will change how you act.
- Separate Fact from Story
Part of what makes a crucial conversation hard is opposing opinions. It is effortless to assume, judge, or jump to conclusions when we think about what we see or hear. Stories are guesses that happen in the blink of an eye, and many times we do not even know we have created a “story” in our heads. It is so important to stick to something that happens and can be proven.
- Plan for the Process
Before you have that crucial conversation, there must be a process for mutual understanding.
- Start with the facts: “I noticed…”
- Temporarily tell your story: “I am starting to think that…”
- Stop your path, and ask for theirs: “Can you help me understand…”
Crucial conversations are going to be hard. I hope that before you have that critical conversation, you take yourself through these steps. Separate stories from facts, listen with curiosity and, safety and trust are pivotal.
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Klein ISD is a school district in Klein, Texas located in northwestern Harris County. The district spans approximately 87.5 square miles and serves more than 54,000 students in 33 elementary schools, 10 intermediate campuses, one high school program of choice, and 5 high schools.
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