Imagine a stool, three legs that hold up the seat. Without one of the legs, the stool becomes unstable.
True, Kind Necessary (TKN) is a simple tool. In difficult conversations, it’s important to remember to use these ideas together to have the best outcome. In a discussion where we agree, we don’t even have to think about TKN. These conversations are fun; we’re in sync with another persons’ viewpoint. It’s when conversations illuminate differences that we need to be mindful of our intention. Intent and Impact are critical. In difficult conversations or situations, we tent to bring our biases, judgments, ego, and opinions into the arena. While we may have positive intent, we can end up having a negative impact.
True– We want to be honest in our interpretation of information and give honest reflection to people. Truthfulness is valuable in communicating our experience. It takes skill to share our truth without telling others how they feel, what their intention was, or judging their behavior as the ‘problem’ issue. Ask yourself some questions: What is the story I am telling myself about this situation? Am I making any assumptions? Do I have enough information or are there other questions I need to understand? Am I exaggerating or escalating the truth?
In no time flat, we can set people up to feel attacked. When that happens, they either tune us out, or we engage them in an argument. Think about this, I am telling you ‘truth,’ from my perspective, and if I am unkind in my delivery, or it’s not my place to share my truth, I run a real risk of having a negative impact on you. I may be creating a drama that won’t do me or anyone any good.
Kind– This is the level of how we approach a conversation with compassion and gentleness. Here we are sharing our truth without thought to other people’s feelings. We can inadvertently hurt peoples feelings, Intent/Impact. This is especially true in the texting, typing, IM’ing medium. People can’t read our non-verbal body language. We may not even know each other, and we end responding to things based on how we felt the message was coming at us. If it’s a difficult situation, people may already be defensive. Kindness is about intention. We can decide if we intend to be helpful or hurtful. Are we having a conversation or are we trying to ‘teach’ someone why they are wrong? If it’s to be useful and our message still lands hard, apologizing for the unintended outcome is kindness too.
Necessary– It may take asking yourself a few questions, to figure out this one. Why are we vested in sharing our perspective? What’s our goal for the conversation? Were we invited to give feedback? Or, are we trying to ‘advise’ someone to their ignorance? Is what we’re about to say, for the greater good of the person we are speaking/writing to, for the greater good of the dialog? I ask myself, “Is what I am about to say, think or do, going to take me one step closer to my goal or one step further away?”
There are times that we need to speak up. Say, we see a way to help someone be more efficient or correct something small before it gets big. Maybe we need to set a healthy boundary on how others speak to us, or what we are willing or not willing to do for someone. The more necessary the conversation, often the scarier it runs the risk of feeling. Which is why adding the elements of True and Kind can help the conversation go better for all parties.
In communication, there is another area to consider. Let’s call this the fourth leg of the stool, increasing stability.
Timing – Are you calling someone out in public or private? Are you giving them time to respond or pushing for an instant response? Would a face-to-face conversation, even if we are talking Skype versus an email argument or texting war be more effective?
Think about our internal timing; are we hungry, tired, overwhelmed, or not feeling well? All these factors will affect how we bring ourselves to any hard conversation. These factors apply to the other person as well, making sure both parties are in the right frame of mind is crucial.
Giving ourselves time to cool down before responding is helpful too. If I get fired up about something, my brain floods with Adrenaline and Cortisol and increases my reactivity, while decreasing my ability to think through a situation. Have you ever had an intense conversation and then later think of all the things you wished you had said instead? If I give myself an hour or a day before responding, I have time to engage my thinking brain again, and I may come up with a much better response.
We can all get HiJacked by our brain when we find ourselves in a difficult conversation.
Even using these tools will not guarantee a 100% positive outcome in every situation. However, your odds increase of having a better conversation.