There is a perception that in a difficult conversation it should be the manager who does virtually all of the talking. After all they have probably called the meeting, they should have a clear purpose and outcome in mind and of course should be prepared with some key questions and relevant data.

My experience shows that this one-way type conversation will quickly cease being a conversation and turn into something more akin to a moan, rant, tirade, monologue and general telling off. The other person will either pay minimal lip service or simply go silent and nothing of any value will have been achieved.

I am going to suggest that there is a different way

I am on fairly safe ground to suggest that the normal ratio of talking and listening for any conversation between two people should be about 50 / 50.

Conversations by definition must be two-way and a just because a conversation is difficult that should not radically change that natural dynamic.

However, I would suggest that 50% talking for a manager should be the maximum. Ideally aim to create an environment where you mostly listen and occasionally talk – let’s put the figure at 70 / 30.

How do I get to 70/ 30?

1. Avoid having a script
2. Outline your purpose and share your feedback
3. Ask a good question

4. Listen and ask more questions prompted by what your have heard
5. Listen and ask more questions to confirm and get commitment

In the next newsletter I will provide some top tips around the different sorts of questions that you can ask and where these are best placed to help achieve the 70 /30 ratio.