Have you ever been approached by someone and found yourself shocked or on the back foot, not expecting what was coming? You think to yourself ‘… well, that came out of left field’.

How many times have you approached a colleague with a simple request and not noticed or cared that their mind is not focused on you and what you want, but instead on something completely different that they are interested in eg whatever they are working on?

Nevertheless, you say `excuse me’ and then barge ahead assuming they are ready to listen, and then you wonder why they reply with a bite in their tone, or sigh, roll their eyes, and give you a fraction of their attention. Nobody likes to be treated this way and it is disrespectful.

So, let’s talk about what can be done to create a respectful relationship from the outset.

When the situation is emotionally charged, it is even trickier, especially if you talk to someone who is not expecting it.

If you surprise or shock a person, from a neuroscience point of view, you will unconsciously be perceived as a threat. Your `approach’ has activated the reptilian brain and the sympathetic nervous system often known as ‘flight, fight and freeze’. Don’t be surprised if you notice defensiveness, negative body language, excuses or even a tendency to be overly helpful (flight behaviour to get you away from them).

So, how do you prepare a person for a `tricky’ conversation?

First and foremost, you must ensure your audience is well primed to discuss the subject you want to raise.

This art of communication is called ‘metacommunication’ and is critical if you want your message to be received just as you intended, and the neo cortex of the brain is activated. (I will cover metacommunication on Day 3.)

Always make sure the person you want the person you want to have a conversation with is ready to receive your communication before you launch into your agenda.

Let’s imagine you are talking to a colleague, Sue, who is not meeting deadlines, and it means you’re racing around at the last minute in a panic and it reflects badly on you.  You find yourself making excuses for Sue or covering up for her.

Think about the greater purpose of the conversation which is to improve your collegial relationship with Sue, your understanding of each other and to reach agreements.

Start with an opening sentence that has a purpose that includes the two of you having a better relationship. You wouldn’t say “Sue I’m getting fed up always covering for you when you miss deadlines!”

Instead, warm up to the greater purpose of talking to Sue eg. “Hi Sue, have you got time today for a 15-minute conversation?  It’s about how we can work well together on this project and iron out a few issues before they become a problem …” or “Sue, can we have a talk about how to keep improving our working relationship? … Let’s find a time that suits you to do that.”

Remember, not all issues should be raised in your timing. Even if you are keen to talk, it takes two to want to engage. 

In summary, if you want to talk to someone about anything –

1. Observe them – what are they warmed up to?Out of 10, how warmed up are they to what you want to say?If your count is less than 5 then you will have problems!

2. Warm-up to a greater purpose and say something to reflect that.You are doing you best to have her respond from her parasympathetic nervous system which is calm and thoughtful.