What makes a conversation tough? It’s different for everyone – what you consider tough might be easy for me and vice versa. Is there a way to prepare for these difficult conversations and handle them in a way that will help improve the outcome?
This week I’m joined by A.J. Grossman. AJ is an attorney with Leap Frog Divorce based in Florida. In addition to his law degree, he has a master’s in Dispute Resolution which personally, I think may give him a slightly different perspective than many lawyers. AJ’s goal is simply to help people solve problems.
In This Episode
AJ’s Challenge: A typical response from a lawyer or an attorney when you ask a question is “it depends” so AJ’s challenge for today is to get through the entire interview without giving that response. Let’s see how he does!
What makes a conversation tough?
Safety – do the people entering the conversation feel safe? If they don’t feel safe in a conversation, they’re less likely to be as honest, vulnerable, and/or transparent as they need to be.
Skills – Most people don’t have the training or skills to handle tough conversations and learn from experiences. These can be experiences we had ourselves or from watching our parents. We can have good experiences that we take with us into our next difficult discussion and we can have bad ones or bad role models that make us avoid these discussions out of guilt or shame.
How do emotions play into tough conversations?
Humans are emotional beings first and logical beings second.
If two people enter a tough conversation and one side is a feeling, emotional person while the other is not, the emotional person will want to talk about their feelings while the other will not and will want to avoid the conversation.
Should you consider why a conversation will be tough?
What’s your relationship with the other side of the conversation? If it’s one that you don’t care about, you won’t be so careful about preserving that relationship during the course of the conversation. If it’s a relationship that you want or need, you need to take the time to sit and think about a strategy for how to have it in a way that will preserve the relationship.
How do you create a strategy? In creating a strategy for having a tough conversation, here are some things you should think about:
Who – Do you have the conversation alone with the other person or do you include other family members or even counselors or therapists? How do you ask to include someone else in that conversation?
When – You don’t pick the time, you invite the other person to join you.
How – The best way to have a conversation on a sensitive and important topic, the best way to do it is in person.
How do you go about identifying trigger words?
Eliminate judgment and conclusions from the conversation – avoid saying “you are ridiculous” or “you always do XYZ”. These labels aren’t helpful and can cause people to shut down.
Tip – Role-playing tough conversations can be super helpful since we learn by experience.
A.J. Grossman graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in business administration and at the top of his Florida law school class. He immediately went on to achieve his Master of Laws degree in Dispute Resolution from The Straus Institute at Pepperdine University Law School in California, which is the #1 ranked Dispute Resolution program in the country.
As the son of a Navy Officer and the founder of several businesses, he learned quickly about service to others. A.J.’s goal is to help people solve problems, plain and simple. Being in the right place and doing the right thing, at the right time, for a person (or a couple of people) in need, drives A.J. to continue growing his legal practice. He focuses his efforts on providing solutions that protect the interests of those who seek amicable resolutions in their lives.
Mandy Walker is a divorce mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® based in Boulder, Colorado. She works with individuals and couples helping them to end their relationships with dignity and respect, creating an understanding of the process and their options so they can feel confident in the decisions they’re making.