New Course - Difficult Conversations Made Easy

Talking Technical: Dealing with Difficult Conversations in Software and Web Development

Everyone in every walk of life has had experience of conversations that don't go the way they would like, or result in more anger, upset and frustration than they do in progress. These kinds of conversations seem particularly common when people talk about software or web development, especially when technical people and business people try to talk together about software of the web.

Research into the field of negotiation and difficult conversation by groups such as the Harvard Negotiation Project has revealed that difficult conversations can all be seen to be following the same fundamental pattern. Once the structure of difficult conversations is understood, it is much easier to learn strategies for approaching them that can massively improve the effectiveness and success of communication. At the same time, the chance of upset, anger and other negative and time-wasting responses are reduced.

Identity: It's always about you. Issues surrounding our identity are very often the drivers behind the most emotional difficult conversations. By understanding what identity issues are commonly behind difficult conversations,

What happened: What happened? Whose fault is it? What should happen next? This conversation is very often the aspect of a difficult conversation which is most obvious. We investigate the ways in which the ″What happened″ conversation can conceal the real causes of a difficult conversation and investigate the use of the ″And stance″ - a method for understanding the contribution that all parties have made to a problem without the need to apportion blame.

Feelings: Though many people think that there should be no place for feelings in the workplace. The uncomfortable truth is that ″If you don't have your feelings, they'll have you.″ Many, many difficult conversations which claim to be disputes over ″What Happened?″ and involve blame, finger pointing and accusations of bad intentions are in fact conversations about feelings. Unless these feelings are addressed, the problem can't be solved.

This one-day course covers the basic structure of difficult conversations and then covers a general approach to dealing with difficult conversations that can be applied in a wide variety of different situations. Throughout the day, participants are asked to take part in a series of exercises taken from real-life experience of the tutor of over fifteen years of software development. These exercises give participants the opportunity to develop skills in dealing with difficult conversations in a safe, supportive environment away from the workplace.

Mark Stringer is a trainer, coach and consultant. He has worked as a software developer and project manager for IBM and Xerox and for a series of small internet startups. He has also worked as a researcher and tutor at Cambridge and Sussex Universities.


For further information, contact Mark@agilelab.co.uk (07736 807 604)

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