- consider why you are here- why is this conversation important?
Have you ever been frustrated in a meeting which seems to be going off track, and you can’t work out how to bring it on track in a constructive way?
Or when you’ve been caught in a conversation where you’re treading water really fast to avoid saying the wrong thing, and don’t say what you want to say.
Or you get frustrated, say it all, and alienate people you care about or people you need on side.
In my early career, working as a mediator, I found I could have an anchor for the difficult conversation ahead, if I could establish why we were here- the purpose of our meeting. So I might frame our time together, as an opportunity for them as parents to create a plan with the best interests of the children in the centre. Then, when it would go off track, as inevitably it would as emotions were often high, I could remind people why we were here, and we could be back on the path.
This week at Women in Leadership Forum, I introduced a communication model that also starts with an anchor. The model is about communication action and over the next three forums the women will have a chance to work though four basic atoms of communication.
The first step in the model is the framing statement. This establishes why you are seeking the conversation- why it is important to you? Or if a meeting, what we are here for, what is the focus?
By itself, the framing statement is a clarifying or anchoring tool. To really enter constructive dialogue, there are three assumptions that are made: the first two are that you need to be able to listen and really hear and understand the perspective of the other, and you need to be able to self reflect, and manage your own anxieties and be aware of the moment you are straying from your intention.
The third assumption and perhaps the most important is the value of mutuality: the model places it at the centre. These are not tools for pushing through my will, my truth, in other words, unilateral decision making, dressed up as a conversation. It is a model that asks you to invite the other and their perspective into the conversation.
Staying in this intent of mutuality is the magic (and hard work) of this model.
Most conversations are not rehearsed. Even if you have worked out great ways of starting, sooner or later, you are on your own and the work you have done learning to listen, and reflecting on your own behaviour, and truly valuing your own and the other’s perspective, will be tested.
To think about how to say a useful framing statement, ask yourself the following:
- Why are we here?
- Of all the things we could talk about, what could be a useful focus?
- Why is this important?