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LinkedIn Live When do you walk away from a difficult convers…
conversation, walk, people, talking, challenging, difficult, reconvene, jenny, cooling, thinking, organization, defuse, procedures, engage, important, day, bit, terms, ethics, red line
Nadine Powrie [00:02]
We are live a very good afternoon to you all. I’m Nadine Powrie. I’m an executive and leadership coach, a workplace mediator. And I have my guest today, Jenny. Hi, Jenny.
Hi, Nadine. I’m Jenny Lynn. I’m a leadership development consultant. And quite a few other things. Mostly educational in terms of, I’ve just spent the day in a school evaluating their ethos and vision, and seeing whether that can be triangulated and just finished a load of inspections as well. So I do all sorts of different things.
Nadine Powrie [00:42]
And last time, Jenny, when we did our last LinkedIn live, I think we were in Dubai. We were actually we were in a hotel together. And you were sitting near the entrance of my room, because we were in the same room. And it was really echoing and we were trying to make it work so that we could do our LinkedIn live. So the context today is slightly different. Because we are back in England, aren’t we? Yeah, yeah. Okay. Okay. So we were, we were actually in Dubai. And we were brainstorming the LinkedIn live topics that we could talk about. And one of the one of the themes that I am really interested in, of course, I wouldn’t be because I’m doing a PhD on it is about managing difficult conversation. And as we were talking, you actually asked the question, when do you walk away from a difficult conversation? And I remember, we were walking on a beach, I think, and I remember saying to you stop. I do need to write that down, because we need to talk about it on the LinkedIn live. So here we are today, Jenny, when do we walk away from from a difficult conversation? Now? What are your thoughts on that?
Shall I explain the background to that conversation coming up? I had it sounds very petty, but it actually was was what stimulated this discussion is that I was on the beach with a son, you know, with an umbrella thing and to sunbeds waiting for Nadine, who was coming from a different town. And my, whilst I was in the sea, somebody, a group of people came along and started and plop themselves down in my shade. Because as you know, you know, when the sun’s at a certain angle, that the shade is far away from the pole. And as the sun moved around, they moved around with it. So they ended up with their sunbeds hitting mine, basically. And then they tried to move the one that I had set out for you. And all the time, I thought, I’m not going to make an issue of it. These were rather large Russian ladies who looked like they could flap me at 10 paces. So I just thought, you know, I quite deliberately didn’t do anything about it, because I felt it would just cause upset, but then they started to try and move your sunbed. And that was the trigger point for me whereby I wasn’t going to put up with it any longer. So I then challenged them. And it all got quite unpleasant. And this was over some of a shade on a beach. So it wasn’t a big deal. But it did make me realize that there were times when it’s best to walk away from a challenging conversation rather than getting embroiled in something that you weren’t going to win, or wasn’t going to get to a reasonable conclusion. And I remember we talked about this, because you were you were anxious to meet these Russians, because you were you were going to take them on. And I was equally anxious to keep you away from them. So we started discussing is, you know, I mean, we’ve talked a lot about challenging conversations and how important they are not to not to turn your back on them, but to have a courageous or a challenging conversation. But I then did say, well, when when is the time to walk away. And I think we also recognize that we have, we would walk away at different times. And it’s not even necessarily walking away from it. It’s not walking into it. So and I think that I’m much more inclined to avoid it than you are. And I know that there have been times when you’ve kind of poked me from behind saying Come on, Jenny, stand up for yourself kind of thing. And I do stand up for myself, but I do. There are times when I will avoid a challenging conversation without a doubt.
Nadine Powrie [04:36]
Do you think I mean, you’ve just mentioned the word, courageous conversation. Do you think that and me you know, wanting wanting to I mean to take them on wanting to talk to them actually. Do you think that it’s it’s about courage when you decide to engage in in difficult conversation. Do you think it’s always about courage?
No, because I think it can take just as much courage to walk away. I think it’s about making the judgment. And I think the judgment is around, is this something that is so important that it must be dealt with? Or is this something I can I can either put to one side until there’s no more appropriate time? And I think both take courage in different ways.
Nadine Powrie [05:33]
Yeah, I mean, I agree with you. I think that I think that to have a difficult converse, I mean, first of all, I think that the word difficult conversation is a perception, because I think we make it difficult by using the word difficult conversation, my view is that it’s a conversation. And we are making it difficult, difficult because of our perceptions and assumptions. When when we decided on this topic, I actually saw that walking away doesn’t always mean that actually, we never get back to it. It could mean that at a certain time, in a given context, it’s actually probably better to disengage, than to engage in a conversation that is going to go nowhere. So I think there are two meanings. And this is why I talked about the terminology of the word because walking away, doesn’t always mean that you never get back to it. You know, for what we
know, timing, isn’t it? It’s about timing. Yeah,
Nadine Powrie [06:42]
it is. And for what we know, we could have met those ladies the next days. And actually, there would have been fine. You know, we don’t know their circumstances. So one must never assume. But I think it’s interesting that walking away doesn’t always mean that you cannot come back to it, you can come back to it. And you can choose, when you come back to it, it’s always better to choose when you come back to it.
Yes, yes. And I think that’s the essence of it isn’t it is that you don’t necessarily jump straight in with a conversation that you know, could prove to have passion, argument, a challenge around it. And I think that if you know that this conversation is coming, then you need to pick your time. And it also, I think you need time for the participants in that conversation to stand back and think about it. And it could be that you actually say, Look, you know, we need to talk about this, but we’re going to park it for now. So I think that walking away is probably a misnomer, in some ways. Because it’s it’s it’s choosing your time to have it rather than walking away. Although it could be that him walking away that you’d no longer need to have that conversation because you’ve walked away from the Flashpoint, whatever that was,
Nadine Powrie [08:08]
yeah, and maybe you know, the trigger at the time doesn’t matter anymore. The next day, I mean, for something, which we will both say was so trivial, you know, the sunshine on the beach, I mean, that was very trivial. So it wouldn’t probably matter the next day. But when we think about work, for example, an instances of work that you and I would experience probably, you know, recently as well, working with clients, I would say that there are times where, actually it’s better to walk away. And to decide whether, you know, one day you want to reopen that conversation, or actually, you don’t want to reopen that conversation. And here I’m thinking about, you know, when would be the unique occasion, when you wouldn’t come back to eight when you would not engage again.
I think there would be a number of occasions, wouldn’t that be one would be if that actually the person who you need to have that conversation with you don’t want to engage with whatever happens. The other would be perhaps if it was more damaging to a relationship or a professional personal relationship, if you have that conversation, it’d be more damaging to have it than it would be to ignore it. And I think in our own lives, we’re constantly having situations where we either decide I’m going to tackle that or I’m not going to tackle that. So I think that there are different circumstances under which you wouldn’t engage in that conversation from my point of view. I don’t know your point of view might be different. I don’t know when you Yeah. Oh, that was appropriate. Yeah. Actually, when
Nadine Powrie [09:59]
you ask To me that questions, that question, when we were in Dubai actually sort of that I thought, you know, what is the unique occasion where I wouldn’t come back to it? And I think I wouldn’t come back to it if it was probably about ethics. You know, if it was a conversation where I felt I was harassed or bullied, or, you know, I was insulted, I would probably not come back to it because I have boundaries. And we all do we all do. And sometime, and you will know what I am thinking about. Sometimes it’s actually better to walk away and not look back and think, Okay, this is crossed the line, you and I, we’ve talked about the crossing that we have, you know, we have a line, we have that red line. And actually, sometime, for me, it’s certainly about actually, if, if that person has done that, then for me, it’s it’s kind of irretrievable. It’s like, it’s not gonna work out, no matter what we decide, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree here. And we felt ways in a very polite way. And that’s okay, and we leave it there. But for me, it’s a point of no return. And that’s where that’s probably when I wouldn’t return, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t come back after walking away, I think it would be that I would come back. And if I feel like I’m tight, I mean, if it’s a conversation that needs to be to be had, and if I was tired, if it was not the right moment. And again, you know, we’ve worked in foreign countries, and recently, we were just in Dubai, which as far as difference, right? It’s not a big deal. But I’ve certainly noticed that and, and better, my body has a cycle during the day where I’m better at having certain conversations. So if I’m tired, I’ll probably postpone the conversation and come back to eat when I feel better. Because of the timezone, particularly, when I land in that country takes me a bit of time to adjust. I mean, those might sound silly, but actually, it makes a huge difference.
Absolutely. And I think that that’s that mood, or timing is probably the most important reason for walking away. Because very often, I mean, for instance, this conversation could be something quite I don’t know, people disagreeing quite strongly about something in that, you know, you recognize yourself, I’m tired. And when I’m tired, I can be less rational. So let’s talk about this. You know, at a different time, one of the strategies I used to have as a head teacher, is we used to have parents coming up on the bounce, as they call it, so that that something had happened during the day was their child and the child had gone back and wound the parents up to say such and such as happened at school, and the parents would come up on the bounce, as we called it. And I would never engage with a parent who came up on the bounce because they needed time to assimilate what had happened. And to think about it before they, I mean, I had one guy come up, who’d obviously been mowing his lawn mowing his lawn, he came up just in a pair of shorts, and he was hot and sweaty, it was covered in grass, and I just wasn’t going to entertain any discussion. And I said, Look, you know, please make an appointment to see me. Nine o’clock tomorrow morning. And I’ll give you all the time that we need to discuss this. And he came back and he had a completely different attitude. So I think that the cooling down period, whether you’re tired or whether you just need to defuse the situation that I think you should never go into a conversation where the temperature starts off hot. You know, if it’s hot to start with, then you say, Okay, let’s just let’s reconvene, let’s meet again in an hour. Or let’s meet again tomorrow, because I think that passion gets in the way of being rational. Yeah, and I think that that’s a time when you you certainly would not walk away, but reconvene or rearrange.
Nadine Powrie [14:20]
Yeah, yeah. I love what you say about taking the temperature and kind of assessing, you know, what’s going on for the other person. But sometimes, we don’t have a second chance. You know, sometime it’s going to be quite hard to come back because the next day the team isn’t going to be there together. Or, you know, we’re going to be on our next flight or, and kind of now is the time I’ll never so how would you how would you do it? If it was like, Okay, it’s now never what do I do? Do I Do I go for it to your terms, or do I just Just back off. I mean, that’s quite a tricky question I’m asking you, I’m just interested.
I think it depends on how high the stakes are. Yeah. You know, how important is it that I have my say in this? Or how important is it to just not really stoke the fire? And I think that you, I wouldn’t be able to generalize. In terms of what what I would walk away from and what I wouldn’t walk away from? Because it depends on the circumstance, it depends on the heat. And it depends probably more on the context. Yeah. So if this was something that, take an example, you know, we’ve talked about red lines, and we’ve talked about ethics. And I think those are the things that upset you and I most is when people crossed that red line, or when they do something that we feel is unethical. And there are some times when much as I might want to walk away, my math just goes, because I’m so upset, aghast or whatever, what somebody said that I have to say something. And that’s not necessarily the best time for me to say it, because it’s, it’s a knee jerk reaction. And I would rather come back when I’ve had time to process it. But you know, yourself, if somebody crosses that red line in some ridiculous way, then suddenly, you know, you’re going to say something, but I don’t think you can generalize on when that would be.
Nadine Powrie [16:30]
Yeah, yeah, I guess, I guess, if it was just, okay, I have to deal with it. Now, I guess one of the things that I would do is, go into a different place in the building. So when I would feel the heat, as you say, yourself, you know, take the temperature, if it was a specific room with a history, okay. Where, where the triggers and the heat would come from, I think I would try to go somewhere else. And the fact that I would transition, you know, it’s kind of walking on the bridge, to go to a different room, offer tea, I mean, you know, it’s amazing what a cup of tea can do to people, sometimes it just takes five minutes, but actually, it can really change the mood, the atmosphere, and I would try to use time. So that time is my alive for, for about five to 10 minutes, kind of transition. So that I positioned myself in a different place with you know, that person or a group of people, so that the conversation could start in a different place where it would feel different, I think I would do that. And I have done that in the past. It’s worked. So that’s, you know, that’s one little tips that I would would use, which, which can help, actually. And it’s also about acknowledging that, taking responsibility, like, you know, it’s, I find it difficult in that room where everybody seems to be, you know, quite, quite annoyed, or I’m just struggling in that room to have that conversation. So I’ve kind of brought you here because it feels a bit more peaceful here. And, you know, you look at the seats and the seating arrangement, and you know, you’re gonna be some windows. And I think that sometimes it can make a little bit of a difference.
It’s physically cooling off as well as emotionally, isn’t it, it’s giving people time to kind of rearrange themselves in terms of their perspective and where they are in time and place, which sounds dead simple, but actually just doing that can be enough to defuse it, and it gives you both. I mean, nobody, very few people want to have conflict. Some people will go after conflict, like it’s their bread and butter, but majority of people would rather avoid the conflict. So if you give somebody that opportunity to remove them from the situation and to, you know, oh, let’s just sit down and have a cup of tea. And you introduce that informality and something that’s not related to the conversation that you need to have to to give that gives both of you time enough to kind of catch your breath and reconvene, doesn’t it? Yeah, yeah. I do
Nadine Powrie [19:42]
want to say something about difficult conversations because sometimes people associate difficult conversations with bad news. But actually this week, I was working in with an organization we were doing some leadership development, and the difficult conversation Since we’re not about people performing badly, it was more about how can I make my team more creative? When actually they’re exhausted? You know, that in itself is not a difficult. I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s a difficult conversation. It’s not like, you know, talking about performance, which isn’t going very well. Or behavior of, you know, attitude or it’s not about that, it’s actually, the team is doing very well. And the team has done very well. But now we need to do even better. When the team is kind of very tired. I mean, you know, November, December, not easy months. And how do you have that conversation? Because they’re gonna say, Well, I’ve already got quite a lot of work at the moment. So that in itself isn’t a difficult conversation. But for some people, it is because they’re thinking, Where am I going to be able to show them that little space that they might have, when really they concede.
But I think it’s also touching on the point that one person’s difficult conversation isn’t necessarily another person’s. And some people are much more at ease, thinking, for instance, in terms of accountability, for some people, making an organization or part of your organization accountable is quite an easy thing to do, because it’s part of the fabric of the organization. But for others, it can be a real challenge. And I think it’s the same with any conversation is that some people feel much more at ease. I mean, giving or accepting praise, for instance, can be quite challenging. Some people find it very difficult to give people praise, or to thank people. Now you’re, I wouldn’t think of that as a challenging conversation. But a lot of people actually find that quite difficult to do. And a lot of people find it difficult to accept praise as well. So I think that it’s a very generic term, that kind of covers any conversation that you might feel uncomfortable about, or you might have to think a little bit more carefully about than you might something that you feel more relaxed about. So I think it’s, there’s, there’s a huge range of conversations that can come into what we’re talking about. And I think that what I feel it is talking about might be quite different for what you feel it is talking about. So what might be challenging for me, may not necessarily be challenging for you. And the same for, you know, the world over. It’s not a, a challenging conversation equals something isn’t true, it can be a number of things.
Nadine Powrie [22:49]
Yeah, yeah. I mean, commit coming back to the walking away from, from a difficult conversation. I mean, of course, you know, when we give feedback to people that don’t really walk away, they tend to, you know, they can just sit and listen. But because you’ve just mentioned, you know, giving praise to people, some don’t walk away, but they don’t say much. They are obsessing, you know,
and also some people, some people appear not to like it. And I think that’s quite an interesting concept, isn’t it? I mean, some people actually crave and need affirmation, positive affirmation from people, whereas others find that actually quite difficult to accept, oh, well, it’s only it’s only it’s only such and such. I mean, it, we’re kind of going into another aspect of it, but it’s the same sort of thing, isn’t it that that people find different things challenging, be it? You know, I mean, we’ve been talking about arguments or disagreements or crossing a red lines, but it’s, it doesn’t necessarily have that negative connotation. And going back to your, you know, how do you tell an outstanding organization that actually, then they have more steps to take, you don’t suddenly stop when you become an outstanding organization? Because that’s the whole point of an outstanding organization. Is that what was it I was told, today is a restlessness to improve. And I think that’s an interesting concept about it. I’m digressing, really, because we were talking about challenging conversations, but even that, that restlessness to improve is something that needs to be managed. And there can be conversations around that because somebody may want to put X, Y and Zed into an organization because they want to make it better. But actually, the strategic view is something different. So that in itself could end up being a challenging conversation. There are so many scenarios.
Nadine Powrie [24:51]
Yeah, and you know, not everybody walk at the same pace, right? You have those who are Very happy to run a marathon, and you have those who are very happy to sprint, I always use those two. So the walking away can depend on well, how fast are you going to respond to, you know, the potential of having a conversation, you’re going to just wait a bit of time and just engage a little bit and then off you go? Or are you going to suddenly say, Okay, no, that’s not for me now. I’m just going to, to move to something else. And I think it’s a it’s a skill actually, to, it’s a real skill actually, to walk away. Whenever you it’s crossing that red line. Or whenever you want to say to somebody, we will come back to it, we, you know, we can we can reschedule a time to come back to it. Because you are committed to solving the issue that needs to be talked about. You want to say something, Jenny?
No, no, I’m just agreeing. I’m thinking that that goes back to the sunshade. You know, that wasn’t something that needed to go back to. And it wasn’t something that would be carried on beyond that one moment, because it wasn’t important. But nevertheless, there are others that have a far greater significance and importance that you have to deal with. And that’s one thing we haven’t really touched on is what what scenarios are the whereby That conversation has to be held? Whether you choose to or not. Okay, it’s just too, so when would you actually have a conversation that had to be have, no matter how long?
Nadine Powrie [26:48]
For me, it would be? Well, being an educator, it would be health and safety, it would be self gambling, it would be you know, because we’ve we’ve worked in school, it would be child protection. I mean, I talked about bullying, harassment, you know, for me, it would be something, something like that. I think I would. I mean, obviously, you, you know, you, you think about what you need to be doing, because there are HR procedures. So, depending on whether that conversation is going to be part of an HR procedure, you actually you need to be very careful about that conversation, that three conversation that you may have, which might completely disrupt the HR procedure. So this is why I think that when you’re when you’re a leader, I think it’s important that, you know, procedures, you know, employment law, because you might want to have that conversation, because you think it’s here now, but actually, it may be better if you don’t have it now. And
because there is research, perhaps, yeah,
Nadine Powrie [28:02]
because there is a procedure to follow. And actually, you know, if that goes into an employment tribunal, that very first move would have been the wrong move. So I remember when I was a head teacher, I actually took my team to an employment tribunal as part of their training, to understand the procedures. And they said that it was the best training that they had in their career, because they could then understand why we needed to do things in a very specific order. Because sometimes there is what you would like to say what you would like to do. But yes, you can do it. Because because there is a procedures.
Yeah. And but other other times, do you think when you have to have that conversation? I mean, you’ve talked about the sort of the health and safety and legality of things. What about something that’s not covered by that? Is there a is there a circumstance you think that that conversation has to be had, maybe it’s to do with red lines or athletics? So I mean,
Nadine Powrie [29:04]
yeah, I think I mean, certainly for me, if it’s about red line, ethics, I don’t think I would have a problem in having that conversation. And the thing is, you know, me, Janice, I can see you’re looking at me, but I wouldn’t have a problem. I might, I might use time to think about how I’m going to talk about it because I like to process and think about how I’m going to say it because I want to be I want to be fair, in what I say I don’t want to overreact. And I think sometime taking a bit of timeout to let the you know the temperature cooled down. It might be that you’re emotionally quite upset. I think it might be better to take time out to then come back so that you can talk without your emotion. Overwhelming you, you know,
the cooling off, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah, the
Nadine Powrie [30:13]
message is clear. So, Jenny, we’ve been talking for about 30 minutes. Is there anything that you want to add to? Walking away from a difficult conversation? Do you think we’ve given enough? Enough little tips and strategies to our audience today?
I think we’ve I think we’ve clarified what we mean by walking away. That actually, it depends on the context, whether you walk away completely, it’s about defusing the situation and letting the temperature cool down before you tackle it. It’s about crossing red lines, health and safety, child protection, red lines are obviously, you know, tempts us don’t use another metaphor, but I think that walking away shows courage. As does as does, tackling it, I think it’s you’ve got to make the decision based on the context and how you feel about what’s happened in terms of your ethics. And whether it’s something you can you can walk away from?
Nadine Powrie [31:25]
Yeah, yeah. I mean, as you’re talking, I’m thinking, you know, would have been a would have, have been able to know how to do that when I was in my 20s. I mean, you know, I’m kind of half a century now, it’s probably a little bit easier, because I have more experience, and I’ve made mistakes. And I’ve learned from that. So I was talking to, to an organization this weekend, they said to me, you know, it is so important to train people. Because, you know, sometimes you have one chance to get it right? You know, you you that conversation needs to come happen many times. So you’ve got to get it right. And it’s a skill, isn’t it? It’s the language you speak, it’s a skill, it’s a talent.
It’s also knowing what you want the outcome to be. And planning for that outcome? Yeah. Because just having a sort of blow off. In terms of, you know, I’m angry. So I’m gonna let you know, I’m angry isn’t gonna get anybody anywhere. But if you go back once the temperature has cooled down, then what do you want from that conversation? And I think sometimes it’s just about satisfying your own anger. Whereas maybe that’s not the best criteria to have a challenging conversation or a difficult conversation with, although it might be tempting.
Nadine Powrie [32:51]
Yeah, I mean, you know, sometimes you may just want an apology sometime, you may just want an idea. The context can be very different. But yeah, knowing your Y is always key. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a conversation? Jenny, it’s been great talking to you. Thank you very much indeed. And we did say that we are going to be starting our LinkedIn live again. So we will meet again next Thursday, same time. And thank you very much, Jenny. This ending isn’t very great, I have to say, but anyway, thank you, Jenny, for them for coming today and for talking about walking away. So what I will do, as I have done in the past, is I publish those little bubbles with ideas. Because I think we can we can pick up some little tips and strategies that might help people so Thanks, Jenny. Okay, my pleasure. Thanks. Thanks. Okay. Bye, Jenny.