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When to Enter Others' Conversation

Lynne Cunningham, author of “Taking Conversations from Difficult to Doable,” contends there are times when you should jump into confrontations between two other people when you’re not really invited. She calls those “ Stub-Your-Toe conversations “and while they are difficult, you are morally obligated to initiate one if you’ve seen or heard offending behavior.  

 

While it’s critical to intercede, she says, you, as Party C, may find yourself in the middle of finger-pointing and denials, and will have to determine if Party A or Party B is in the right.

 

So how do you turn that from a “difficult” to a “doable” conversation?

 

Here are some actions that might inspire you to intercede at work:

  1. Abrupt or disrespectful behavior or language
  2. Passive or passive aggressive action or language
  3. Complaining and/or gossip
  4. Talking about rather than to each other
  5. Failure to comply with policy, regulation or standard of behavior.

 

Following are some tips on how to resolve the problem:

  1. Avoid the tendency to “fix” the problem that caused the other person to act inappropriately.
  2. Stay on message: You are entering the discussion because specific behavior is inconsistent with one of your standards and values.
  3. Avoid tendency to downplay or enable the bad behavior. If it wasn’t important, you wouldn’t have entered the conversation.
  4. Keep it short. If the chat lasts more than four minutes, you’re off track.

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