Preparing for important conversations

Practice, I have found, is one of the most powerful ways to improve performance.  Katie Yezzi

Schools are places in which challenging conversations can occur in many ways – between teachers and students, teachers and teachers, principals and teachers, principals or teachers with parents, and principles or teacher leaders with system administrators.

Practicing such conversations in advance is an excellent way to feel more confident about the conversation and achieve hoped for results.

Anticipating challenging parts of the conversation and determining how we will address them increases our confidence and skillfulness. Should the worst happen, which isn’t likely, we have anticipated it and considered ways in which difficult issues that may arise can be addressed.

When possible, it’s helpful to practice with a trusted colleague who can role play both sides of the conversation. Such practice also provides an opportunity to learn how someone else might address the issue.

What’s on your mind?

  • What types of conversations have proven most difficult for you, and how have you prepared for them?

6 Responses to “Preparing for important conversations”

  1. 1 Jim Knight November 30, 2012 at 7:47 am

    I like this. I also think that there can be value in video recording yourself during those practices attempts and watching the recording to see how it looks. Great to have you back Dennis.

  2. 2 Dennis Sparks November 30, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Thanks for your kind words, Jim. Great suggestion. Given the ubiquitousness of smart phones, videotaping or even audiotaping practice conversations would be relatively easy and provide an important kind of feedback.

  3. 3 Kent Peterson November 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Do you have any suggestions on books, videos, or YouTube segments on good and bad conversations? (I think the old movie “9 to5” has some excellent examples of “bad” conversations and interactions.)

    • 4 Dennis Sparks November 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      I don’t know of any videos, Kent, but I would recommend two books – Fierce Conversations and Crucial Conversations.

  4. 5 Chuck Bell (@Chuck_Bell_) December 7, 2012 at 6:53 am

    As a school leader, I’ve found that it is the anticipation of what may possibly enter the conversation that is most crucial. On a daily basis, this is a constant. Although your post doesn’t specifically mention collaborative practices within a school, it connects nicely. Effective collaboration often includes some difficult conversations that don’t immediately generate unanimous support. I’m currently preparing for an important planning session with math teachers and I know some difficult conversations will be taking place. I’ll be meeting with some key administrators and teacher leaders to ensure we have a game plan for all of the crucial conversations we anticipate.

    • 6 Dennis Sparks December 7, 2012 at 8:06 am

      I’d like to commend you, Chuck, for your collaborative approach and willingness to step up to difficult conversations. I think that’s basically how schools improve – one conversation, one meeting at a time.

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