The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

Handling a ‘glass half-empty’ colleague

It’s a constant battle to get him on the same wavelength as me . . . he’s a glass half-empty guy. When I’m running a project with him, it’s never good enough.

Recently, an executive friend shared the above thoughts in relation to a peer he had to regularly work with.

Below are planning and handling ideas for this matter.*

Consider what battles the person is facing – that you know nothing about. (Mental or physical health, money, family, relationships etc.)

Reflect on the best time(s) during your working day to bring up the matter.

Change the environment. Tell the person you want to buy them coffee to discuss a matter. Wait until you get to the cafe before sharing the matter. Changing the physical environment can disrupt the normal interaction dynamic between people.

Imagine you are the peer. Reflect on how you’d like the interaction to be handled. What tone of voice, facial expression, body posture would you want a peer to use when discussing a sensitive matter.

Before sharing your message, have a mindset of curiosity about how they might view the relationship.

Prepare/Deliver a simple messages you want the person to hear. For example, ‘X . . . I just wanted to check in on how you think things are going in our work together . . . what thoughts do you have?’ and then perhaps ‘I’m getting a sense of friction in our working on projects . . . So I thought it was important to bring it up. . . got any thoughts on that? 

When the timing seems right, genuinely aim to find out something about the person’s life, away from work.

Suggest having regular coffee catchups to maintain a productive relationship.

Despite using the above ideas and techniques the person may not be open to sharing their thoughts. They may become defensive or even hostile. If this occurs, keep your cool. Progress has been made. You have brought the matter out in the open.

After the interaction, take time to reflect on the meeting and what action (if any) you’ll take.

*Caveat: There is always a possibility that a relationship will worsen from discussing problems in a relationship. Still, on balance, most of my clients report that it has been better to confront versus retreat from difficult matters.


Own the Conversation

Consider what difficult/uncomfortable conversations you should/need to have with a colleague, client, supplier etc. Plan for that conversation through using/adapting the above ideas.


p.s. Recently I was listening to a podcast The Art of Charm(a fine podcast) featuring Jordan Harbinger interviewing Charles Duhigg about his latest book, Smarter, Faster, Better.  Here’s the link to the podcast.

I reaped numerous thought provoking ideas and practical techniques from the podcast.

As an added bonus, I found Duhigg to be a captivating speaker – due to his vocal energy and variety, the genuine enthusiasm he has for his work, his fluency of speaking, his clarity of thought and his quickness in translating ideas to speech.

In the podcast Duhigg brought up the research of Carol Dweck.

Check out this prior post concerning Dweck’s work, entitled, Pitfalls of praising intelligence.

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