Difficult Conversations, De-Escalation, and Shark Metaphors

September 8, 2015 — by Patrick Hellen0



Difficult Conversations, De-Escalation, and Shark Metaphors

September 8, 2015 — by Patrick Hellen0

Difficult Conversations, De-Escalation, and Shark MetaphorsThose of us swimming in the CMGR ocean have all had that moment when the cello music kicks in, a fin breaks the water, and suddenly you’re face to face with a pissed off and hungry great white conversation, that’s eyeing you like a menu.

I was on Cape Cod for a week’s vacation, so some images seem to be embedded. Apologies.

What I’m describing is the moment when, instead of your usual helpful communications, you find yourself in the shark’s jaws, and you have to talk your way out. August 28th’s CMGRHangout—Difficult Conversations and De-Escalation—is your own personal Quint, giving you some solid tips to catch and kill the angry fish, and get your community back to a nice friendly beach of splashing kids.

Ok, enough shoehorned Jaws references. Let’s discuss de-escalation.

Key Triggers for Difficult Conversations

The first question of the hangout, what are some key triggers for difficult conversations, gets pretty much unanimous agreement from our panel. Change is the trigger that leads to the most trouble. Both internal and external pressures get into the mix, fear of the eventual impact, and people disagreeing with the direction of change all lead to moments where we Community folks have to work overtime to calm the storm.

My own viewpoint on change—”you’ll get over it,” tends to fall pretty flat when your community members are worried about something they feel ownership in, especially in a moment where they are reminded that there is still someone somewhere that can alter things without their permission. Change management could be it’s own hangout, so I won’t beat the horse here, but my own 2 cents is to involve your community early in the change discussions, so people can get used to the idea and help lessen the impact. Also, the ownership they feel before the change can actually increase exponentially if they are helping to DRIVE those changes. (This point was then repeated by several panelists after I wrote this paragraph, showing how smart they are, and how impatient I am.)

How Listening Plays a Role in De-Escalation

This leads directly into the second question, how listening plays a role in de-escalation, as in many cases, your community wants to be heard. Berrak Sarikaya made a great point of how this active listening role can actually de-escalate those changes before they happen, as your own management moments are to prepare for those slight road bumps.

Tim McDonald and David DeWald also brought up that actively reaching out to someone via non internet methods (read, phone call as an example) is a tactic to help with these difficult conversations, because things like tone, inflection, and intent are all much better conveyed. The hyper connected world we live in can’t ever fully replace that true connection, and for some people, getting a feeling of “reality” from someone’s tone or contrite apology goes a long way.

I think another great tip that several panelists mentioned, is the process of addressing and acknowledging something publicly, and then following up on it privately. The acknowledgement itself is sometimes all that’s needed, but I believe that having the deeper conversation off the public airwaves allows you to solve issues quickly and easier without the audience. Still, as Alan Bush (quick shout out to that stache!) and David DeWald mention, bringing that solved conversation back to a public area means that the next member that has the same issue can find the solution quicker and easier than going though a full offline convo with the next CM or support engineer. It also shows that you trust transparency in your community dealings, and that you’re not hiding anything, just being respectful of a potential issue.

We are all going to have a moment when we feel that we need a bigger boat (BRINGING JAWS BACK! BOOM), but honesty, personal connection, early involvement, and transparency all will help keep the beaches of your beautiful community island open.

Farewell and adieu, to you fair Community Managers, and check here for this week’s Awesome Count.

Patrick Hellen

Director of Community at Deep Information Sciences, Inc.
Patrick Hellen is a large collection of adjectives, in the shape of a lanky, bearded, and bespectacled fellow. He's been a lumberjack, a restaurant writer, a published author, a sales guy, a book seller, a church janitor, a tour guide, and most recently, a community manager and a Dad. He reads nearly constantly, tells loud boisterous stories for as many people as will listen, eats food like it's his last day on earth, and still collects comic books and video games. Until he decides to sit down and write another book, you'll have to find his inane ramblings on Twitter at @PatrickCH.