Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Setting Conversation Expectations

Setting Conversation Expectations

I've starting practicing a technique where, up front, without assuming, I make asks or what I want as well as ask others what, if anything, they might want out of a conversation. No demands. And I try to make room for adjustments to either person’s ask as needed.

Below is an example of what that might look like. Benefits of doing, for me, have included…

1) Feeling that both people have agency to makes adjustments to get their needs met.

2) Interaction starts off authentic and respectful. No-one feels any obligation that wasn't signed up for (so long as all responses were authentic and not passively resentful)

3) Mutual accountability. By entering into a mutual agreement, both people are aligned in a common set of goals. At any point, if the conversation goes off the rails, Both people know what the rails look like. Therefore, some level of accountability falls on each person for if/when things go off the rails. Both people know what to look out for so it’s two pairs of eyes watching for the same issues. Neither person is wholly responsible. And neither person is wholly not responsible for how this interaction goes. I

Final note - perfection is not the goal. The goal is getting some amount of needs met for each person. Things will come up mid-conversation. Time might run short. Expectation setting is not a contract. It's more like a road map. Either side can ask about mutual willingness to alter course if desired. And neither side is under obligation o meet 100% of the asks. Good faith effort toward aligned goals that were agreed to authentically. That’s the goal of this.

Example of an Expectation Setting Pre-Conversation Discussion

Person A: I had an awful feeling interaction at work this morning. I'd like to vent about work and just be heard, no need for response except maybe "that's sounds awful"

Person B: I'm willing to listen for maybe 15 minutes? Can get exhausting for me after that.

Person A: Fair enough, let's see how that goes. If it's not enough, maybe I could ask you again next week if things haven't gotten better?

Person B: Absolutely ask! Can't 100% know that I'll say yes. If I have time and energy, happy to listen more.

Person A: Thanks. Anything you want/need before we get started?

Person B: Oh, now that you ask, I've been wanting to tell someone a bit about my new gardening project.

Person A: Sounds interesting. As long as I'm not too worked up about my own issue to address, would be happy to hear about your gardening project. And if I a still too worked up, maybe write me about your gardening or talk about it later?

Person B: Sounds good.

Person A: Anything else?

Person B: Nope. And you?

Person A: Nope. Ready to hear about my work thing?

Person B: Yep. So what's been going on?

And the conversation can proceed with both people feeling safe through knowing what the parameters of the conversation may look like.

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