The late psychologist Marshall Rosenberg believed that to have meaningful, ‘breakthrough’ conversations, you need to find a way to identify and meet each participant’s needs. To do this, he developed a widely used method to facilitate better conversations. If you are struggling to have productive conversations at work or in life, try following Rosenberg’s four steps which I have outlined below:
1. Observe and recap
Start a good conversation by making a neutral observation and recapping what someone has said. Attach no personal judgments to your response, and ensure your tone encourages collaboration with words like “I hear you say…” rather than “you just said…”. This way you can show your respect and ensure both sides reflect and clarify each other’s needs.
2. Describe emotions
The next step is to talk feelings instead of issues. Explain how you are feeling, and help the other side empathise with you. This will make them much more willing to hear and understand your point. Both sides should focus on expressing what they are feeling rather than their opinions or positions.
3. Identify needs
The next step is to match those feelings with the unmet needs that are driving them. For example, if an employee is feeling ignored, their unmet need might be a wish for acknowledgement and more responsibility. If you are feeling anxious, you may feel that your employee is not communicating enough with you to make you feel confident in their abilities.
4. Make a request
The final step is to ask for defined actions that will help satisfy a need. The key is to acknowledge what’s driving the other person’s point first. As Rosenberg said, “I wouldn’t expect someone who’s been injured to hear my side until they felt that I had fully understood the depth of their pain.”
In business, understanding your employees’, clients’ and markets’ needs as well as you can, is the key to success. Practising these four steps will help you to have the breakthrough conversations that can facilitate this.