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Need to have "That Talk"?

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Sometimes, it's hard to know how to approach tricky subjects or difficult people. I like a little acronym that I picked up when working in Health, SCORE.

It's not about "keeping score", but about implementing it.

First, you need to consider safety. You need to feel safe, but so does the other party.

Next, you need to work together toward a common goal; in the short term, that will be a truce, but it's good to think of a long term goal for both of you as well. You need to collaborate.

Thirdly, openness is important, so you're both willing to talk about the situation and your feelings around it, but you're also prepared to listen (without judging).

The fourth part of the acronym is respect. Both parties must feel respected. Even if you're the boss in this relationship, if you remember the other person's need to feel respected (and you find out how they prefer to be shown respect), you're on your way.

Lastly, think about how you can empower the other person. Empowerment of the other can also benefit you. By teaching someone something you do, you not only provide them with a new skill; you provide yourself with someone to help you, to fill in for you, and you even might start succession planning. It also means that you begin to trust that person, get to know them better, and work "with" instead of "against".

So, that's SCORE.

Sometimes, when we feel emotional, it's hard to have these conversations. So, it might be wise to schedule for a little later, maybe a couple of days. You can say words to that effect, "I'm feeling emotionally raw right now. Can we please talk tomorrow or the next day?". Be honest; be brave in being honest.

Don't leave it too long, though. If you do, it could fester into something even worse.

So, let's delve into those five parts of the acronym, SCORE, a little more.

How do you ensure your own safety? You need to think about this, so you can speak up for yourself, respectfully, to set your boundaries. Maybe, you don't like harsh words or swearing. Maybe you want to hear words spoken quietly. Maybe, you don't want to be interrupted or talked over. Maybe, you want to be heard. Think about all these things, and write them down. You could have a two-sided list, which shows the good communication behaviours versus the unacceptable communication behaviours.

Then, you need to give the other party a chance to do the same. It's not all about you. Often, when there's a dispute, there is more than just one side to the story!

Start with a commitment to be honest, gentle, trusting and trustworthy.

Once you have established that mutual feeling of safety, you turn to collaboration.

How do you collaborate? You and the other party need to decide what you both want to achieve out of this interaction. Once you listen to each other state your individual desires, turn to the things that each desire has in common. Find one common goal. Then consider the method you both want to use to achieve that common goal. Again, listen to each other, without interrupting or talking over each other. Find the good points in both approaches, so you can work together (not apart). Break down your plan into simple steps, and then try them out.

What you need to do, is practise working together, as a team. Be equal partners in striving to accomplish your common goal. Commit to doing the work, and be reliable.

What if it's not working? You need to be open.

What does it mean to be open? You need to be bravely honest, but respectfully so. Focus on the process, not the person. By that, I mean, don't blame anyone. Be tolerant, forgiving, and trust that you are both trying your best.

Throughout all of this process, I keep referring back to being respectful.

Being respectful is the cornerstone of brokering peace. Both parties need to trust each other, and that goes back to what we said earlier about safety, and making a commitment to be honest, gentle, trusting and trustworthy. You should also commit to working, that's right, working toward your common goal.

If you think back to that common goal, it should be a win-win. A great win-win type of common goal is empowerment.

What types of empowerment are there? The first, is simply listening. When a person feels heard, they feel validated. Try it out. Ask the other party how they feel. Then listen to them. Once they have said all they need to say (and they stop), let the air be quiet for a little while. Allow them that definite full-stop. Then, ask again, "how do you feel now, now that you have had a chance to say what you needed to say?" Listen again, and notice the difference in their voice, their demeanour, their choice of words and their prosody (the lilt, speed, volume and pressure of their voice). When you leave, think about how you were feeling before you asked the question, and after the end of the conversation. You will feel different too: what do you feel?

Another type of empowerment is education. Learn from each other! You will both have experiences that are unique to each of you, and experience is priceless. Share it, and share the lessons you have both learned from your experiences. Education can be formal too, and you and the other party might like to do a course together (it could be useful, or it could be fun - loosen up the harsh vibes with a good laugh!). It can be on-the-job training. You get the picture.

Empowerment doesn't end there. Parents who raise children to be independent, are parents who know the art of self-efficacy. This means they teach their child something, and then ask the child to do it at a later stage, and appreciate the child's efforts. It could be washing the dishes, ironing shirts, polishing the car. It's not about praise though, it's about appreciation; and that can be said for adults at work, or teenagers in a team. The principle is the same. Teach a skill, watch patiently as they try it out, be available for help when they practise it, and be grateful that they keep on trying. Don't be a perfectionist until they are perfect (which is never - we're all human).

Oh, and that works for partners too - business partners and romantic partners. Appreciation is a win-win!!

Think about the win-win. If you're a parent, you might want your children to look after you when you're old. They only way they can, is if you show them how. If you're a boss, and you want someone you can trust to do your work when you go on leave, you need to use the same principles: You need to realise someone's potential by training and trusting.

If you'd like more ideas, check out the SCORE workshop, or any of the other workshops and seminars available. Alternatively, a quick read on similar lines is [RE]BIRTH: Self-Transformation over Tea and Tarot (not a tarot book, just inspired by tarot reflection).

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