Pre-live the Tough Conversations

Pre-live Tough Conversations

by David DeFord

When you must discuss an issue with your employer, what you say and how you say it make a difference. 

Pre-live the Conversation

Before you visit with your boss, plan the conversation from beginning to end.

First, brainstorm several options for your opening statement. Write them down, eliminate the obvious losers, and make your top choice. 

Second, think about every possible objection you could hear from your boss. List them. 

Third, take each possible objection, and brainstorm your responses–shoot for a dozen answers per objection. Analyze each possible response, and select the most appropriate one.

Pre-living the conversation will give you better odds of getting the outcome you seek. Rather than depending on coming up with good responses to objections in the moment, you prepare, ponder, and carefully choose your responses.

You also will feel more confidence and poise in the conversation because you feel prepared. Confidence helps you make your case. If you don’t seem convinced, how can you convince your boss.

Find Reasons Your Boss Would Want to Help

Express the benefits to your organization or to your boss of accepting your proposal. Explain why he or she should work with you on your request.

Align your request with your boss’s values: budget compliance, sales and revenue, quality product, customer service, or even family.

Identify Your Ideal and Acceptable Outcomes

Before you talk with your boss, determine your ideal outcome. What would be the best result you can expect?

Then, identify your lowest acceptable outcome. 

Keep the conversation between these two outcomes.

Expect to Succeed

Speaking of confidence, in any negotiation, expect to get what you’re requesting. You truly get what you expect. 

Magic Phrases

As you pre-live, plan to use these two phrases.

The first phrase will help you lead the conversation, “I need your help.” This phrase sets the stage for cooperation. It shows humility and earnest concern. Your boss will more likely tune his or her ear to your request.

The second phrase will help you meet any objection, “I see it differently.” I find this statement more effective than, “I disagree.” You aren’t making them wrong. You will generate less defensiveness. You’re just stating your point of view.

Equipped with these effective communication techniques, you will more likely reach your ideal outcome or an acceptable compromise.



David DeFord


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