Over the years, many people have asked us how to cope with difficult conversations, especially in the workplace, perhaps in a 1:1 situation or monthly review, etc., or an unhappy customer perhaps. My answers to this have evolved over time and right now my advice would be to use the CEDAR model. CEDAR is normally a feedback model, which is sometimes used for coaching. It's extremely effective and can easily be employed for this use too.
Let's take a look at CEDAR:
The 'C' stands for Clarify and this is where the conversation really sets the scene. The recipient needs to be aware of the details as you see them and to know exactly what or when you are talking about. (It’s important for the individual to be aware of the importance or gravity of the conversation itself too.) Keep it simple and clear and avoid being side-tracked ‘ I hear that, but right now I want to discuss…’
It's a natural instinct to want to stand your ground and maybe to feel empowered or righteous at these times so be mindful of the way you're coming across to the other person. During a heated exchange, you might even feel like saying " you don't know what you're talking about!" but keeping your part of the conversation in the 1st person is crucial here. You'll experience a positive change in the dynamic if you say something like "I don't understand" instead. Better still, how about changing "I don't understand" to "what I'm hearing is..." this is a very disarming phrase, as there may be a world of difference between what you're hearing and what they actually mean! It gives them an opportunity to clarify too.
The 'E' stands for Explain and simply allows specifics to come into play that outline your point. It's important that any examples you use in your explanation are factual and cannot be disputed and, as such, will also help remove emotion from the conversation (lessening the possibility for confrontation). Also, keeping that 1st person context in mind can help with some powerful phrases; ‘What I’ve seen/heard is… What I expected to see/hear was…’
The 'D' is for Discuss. A simple what happened? where are we now? and how do we move forward? can be very effective here. A reflective approach can help bring things to the fore that have been buried in the subconscious so open questions are key rather than lots of direction. ‘Help me understand why you chose to do this’ Open a two-way conversation without judging. Explore their understanding and skill as well as their attitude. They might have been right after all. In any case, an almost diagnostic approach will work well, always bearing in mind what it might feel like from their side of the counter.
'A' is for Agree and, as you've already guessed, commitment is the glue of the whole process. As you need to ensure that any future activity/behaviour is positive, an agreement must be made, or at the very least (for those more problematic) agreement of what you expect in the future and the consequence of non-compliance. Any actions that are agreed upon need to form a commitment from both parties, whether it's action from one with support from the other etc...and don't forget to put in a "by when?" so that the action has a measurable outcome in a finite timeline.
And finally, we look back and make sure everyone understands what has gone on and what is expected of them with 'R' for Review. This is the part of the model that often gets overlooked. Often people can plead ignorance or employees might test your resolve, so agree a follow up in a timely manner – possibly daily, weekly or even at the end of the month. The more important the issue/concern, the shorter the timeframe should be; and stick to it. It's not raking it over again or labouring the point, but simply making sure that everyone knows and understands the situation as it is now and what is expected of them going forward. CEDAR...simples!
I'd love your thoughts on this as it offers a slight change to the CEDAR model you might know.