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Avoid These 4 Behaviors That Derail Conversations

When difficult conversations at work go wrong, they can rapidly devolve into unproductive arguments. Keep your discussion on track by minding the A-BCDs: Avoid Blame, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

  • Blame. Try not to make assumptions about what your colleague is thinking, and don’t make groundless accusations. Keep the conversation focused on facts.
  • Contempt. Acknowledge when you’ve lashed out in exasperation, and do your best to avoid making judgments.
  • Defensiveness. Take responsibility for your part in the conversation. Are you open to input, or do you interpret new ideas as criticism?
  • Stonewalling. Commit to listening and contributing with an open mind, instead of avoiding an unpleasant topic or refusing to participate fully in the conversation.

Any of these behaviors can derail a discussion, so make a commitment to yourself — and your teammates — to avoid them.

Adapted from “8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track,” by Monique Valcour

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