Last Friday, during our IT Leadership meeting we had the privilege of having Bobbie Mcadam, Vice President, Information Technology at Medica, Jim Maahs, Sr. IT Security Analyst at Medica, and Kaylea Ross, Learning & Development Partner at Medica lead an engaging discussion on the topic, Constructive Conversations.

What communication challenges tend to arise in IT? This is the question that sparked conversation. In the IT world, we face challenges such as too much technical jargon, a lack of openness to new ideas, not using face to face communication enough and reading into the tone of an email or a text message.

Where do these challenges come from you might ask? They come from a variety of places. Some of these being with holders, passive-aggressive individuals, those that are quiet and individuals that may have a driver personality. This lead to the bulk of our conversation which was focused on getting your message across to those with these personality traits and how to handle having tough and constructive conversations.

The ladder of inference is a theory that can help us better understand why we react to certain conversations. This theory describes the thinking process we go through, without realizing it to get from a fact to an action. There are multiple steps to take when getting from fact to action, one of them being an interpretation that tends to be overlooked. The difference between the two is that a fact is an actual occurrence whereas interpretations are perceptions or judgments that an individual has.

Kaylea Ross gave our group three steps to follow when sharing a tough message, outlined below.

  1. Start with facts, use statements such as “I noticed that…”
  1. Add interpretation: “I’m starting to think that…”
  1. Ask a question: “How do you see it?” or “What’s your perspective?”

The ladder of inference is just one tool to keep in mind. Another thing to remember is that there are six common problems that can have a negative impact on your conversation. While you are interacting with others it’s important to be mindful of these to ensure a constructive conversation. Some of these problems being; mind reading, negative prediction, leading questions, and complaining.

Overall, difficult conversations are something we are going to face in our professional and personal lives. We hope that you were able to walk away with a few key takeaways and tools to help make this part of your job a little easier.

To learn more about the Think IT Association, click here. To view the slide deck, download here: Constructive Conversations Deck.