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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Depersonalize the Conversation



I spend several hours a day searching for new ways to think, innovate, and serve my clients. I am committed to broadening my perspective and bringing you fresh ideas. With this said, I subscribe to many newsletters from great writers and thinkers. ​This one​ just arrived today from ​Michael Bungay Stanier​. He recounts the complex, humiliating, and challenging work relationships he’s encountered over the years, moments that have stuck with him and have shaped how he now approaches people and situations.


As time passes, he can reflect on these events with some emotional detachment and reflect on the part he played, the ownership he assumed, and the other person's responsibility.

What was my role to play and contribution to this scenario?

In the moment of discomfort, we may become self-critical, defensive, and angry, which is understandable. Emotion leads the charge, and we react rather than respond with clarity.

How would this play out differently if we could step back, separate the emotion from the person or conversational content itself, and approach it with detached, curious interest?


One of the ways we get sucked into the furry of self-critical blame is to accept the other’s words as TRUTH. We assume because they said it, because of their title, age, and hierarchy, they must be right.

Michael and I are here to tell you that is not a fair assumption!


It is easy to wither under scrutiny and allow your insecurities to mar your judgment, but I challenge you to step back. Critically ask yourself what part in this is mine to own, what might I learn or ask to improve myself, and then allow others to be who they are.


Shirzad Charmine from Positive Intelligence often says, “The other person is always at least 10% right.” That is a good thing to remember. 90% may be inaccurate, but what is the 10% that you can learn from? Ultimately, we are on a quest for wisdom and insight. To develop new skills and deeper relationships. This requires humility but also a strong sense of self-worth. To recognize what is yours to own and what is not.


Michael has written a new book on navigating these situations that may be interesting. Here is the​ link​.


My Challenge to You:

  • When you find yourself in these situations, take a breath, slow down, and rather than reacting emotionally, shift into detached curiosity and ask, what part of this might be accurate? What is my role to play? Now, ask a clarifying question to drill down on specifics and allow time to reset and subdue your emotions.

  • Partner with someone. Navigating these scenarios on your own is really tough. An outside perspective and a non-emotional sounding board will help separate truth from emotion.

  • Recognize and appreciate that we are all learning. Grant yourself and the other person grace. Typically, behind every difficult relationship or conversation is fear. Can you uncover the fear and speak to that?

Since every conversation is a negotiation, I recommend you become familiar with ​Kwame Christian​. He is a negotiation expert with a phenomenal podcast providing tremendous resources. One of my favorite episodes is ​Critical Mistakes to Avoid in Your Negotiations​ with Ron Hogan. Ron reminds us to “Take 100% responsibility and 0% blame.”

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