Learn to SOAR through tough conversations!
If you’re like me, you hate tough conversations. You know, those conversations that require us to share our hearts and possibly risk offending the other person. Yet, we daily find ourselves in situations, conflicts, and relationships that challenge us to confront difficult issues, express concern, or even deliver bad news.
But when we have a plan, tough conversations don’t feel quite as scary. So, here’s a simple acronym you can use to help you remember 4 steps to connection in tough conversations.
Before you SOAR, assess the situation. Choose a neutral location to meet, and consider bringing another person with you if you don’t feel safe.
First is the S- “Start with Value.” Think about what you can say that expresses what you value about the other person. Do you love them, care about them, admire how they are determined, passionate, quiet, creative, strong, independent, or smart? Start by stating what you value, such as, “I love how independent you are.”
After you express value, move to the O- “Offer Your Story.” Your story might take one of a number of different forms. Perhaps you just learned some new information through a book, news report, or website. Or maybe you’ve been feeling some tension, concern, fear, or loneliness, or processing something you experienced. Whatever you need to say, tell it in the form of a story, such as, “Last night, I had a really hard time sleeping. As I’ve been thinking about it today, I’m realizing that I’m really worried about your health.”
Then, move seamlessly to the A- “Ask curious questions.” Curious questions are very different from loaded questions. A loaded question often starts with the word “why,” such as, “Why don’t you care about your health?” It’s not really a question but is more of a statement that you don’t think the other person cares about their health. Instead, ask a truly curious question that starts with the word “what” or “how,” such as, “What do you hope for in terms of your health?” or “How are you feeling about your health?” or even “Help me understand what you’re thinking lately about your health.”
Finally, after the person answers your curious question, move to the R- “Respond with Empathy” for whatever they share. Even if you can’t relate to the exact situation, our emotions are universal. So, empathize with their emotion, such as, “I can see how that would be frustrating for you.” Indeed, we all know how it feels to feel frustrated.
After you SOAR, move forward together. Imagine sitting on the same side of the table, people on the same team, brainstorming solutions together. This image will keep you from communicating like an adversary and will help keep the connection alive between you.
During the conversation, you may need to offer another piece of your story, express value again, or ask another curious question to help your teammate discover a viable solution. In this way, these steps aren’t a formula, but are helpful talking points to keep in mind in the midst of tough conversations.
So, the next time you approach a challenging interaction, remember to Start with value, Offer your story, Ask curious questions, and Respond with empathy. You can learn to SOAR through tough conversations with these 4 steps. And who knows? Maybe your soaring will lead to deeper trust, connection, and transformation than you could have imagined. Not just in the other person, but in you.