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Skilled incompetence

How does one establish a safe environment? The conversation must be held in a private, preferably neutral, setting with enough protected time for the discussion. Some experts suggest that a potentially neutral way to establish the goal of joint problem solving is to start the discussion by describing the gap between the expected and observed behavior. Other options include asking for permission to discuss a topic or beginning with the facts from your perspective or your observations. It sets the wrong tone to start the conversation with your conclusion, particularly if it is harsh. One should share all appropriate and relevant information and avoid being vague.16 Other tips to maintain a safe environment include asking open-ended questions, focusing initially on points of agreement and using “I” statements. Some examples of “I” statements are “I feel frustrated” and “I am concerned.” One must be aware of one’s body language as well as tone and volume of voice.

Common mistakes to avoid are trying to soften the message by mixing it with complimentary statements or using an overly familiar tone of voice initially before addressing the problem. Most people feel they are being manipulated or treated dishonestly when the messages are mixed. Inappropriate humor or comments disrupt the rapport needed for a safe environment. Another common error is using nonverbal hints or subtle comments with the belief they can successfully address a conflict. This technique is risky because one is never clear on the other person’s interpretations of the hints or comments. It also does not work to blame someone else for a decision or request you are making. It ultimately undermines any respect or authority you may hold. Asking people to guess the reason for the meeting, essentially to read your mind, is irritating and ineffective at problem solving.