How To Present Your Side Of The Story In A Difficult Conversation

There are always two sides to every story and in a difficult conversation these stories tend to be poles apart. Presenting your side of the story as ‘the truth’ will be, at best, irritating and at worst, antagonising to the other person. In this post I delve into the first of three important characteristics for positioning your side of the story  and I describe in detail how to do it in a way that doesn’t antagonise the other person, but instead invites curiosity.

3 Dimensions to your Story

Whilst there are two sides to every story there are three dimensions to every version of the story. There’s your version of what happened, there are the feelings that these past events provoked inside you and then there’s the sense you made of it all, by that I mean the judgements and thoughts you had about their motives.

Cause and Affect

Before thinking about how you position your story you need to get your story straight in your mind. You need to be clear about cause and effect, in other words what happened and what was the impact of what happened. Going into a difficult conversations unprepared will probably result in you saying things that are ambiguous or judgemental or possibly forgetting to raise the stuff that matters most to you.

You could use a sheet of paper to complete this exercise. On the page draw three columns. At the head of the first column write the word ‘Facts’, the second column write ‘Feelings’ and the third column write ‘Inferences and Assumptions’.

Let’s Start With The Facts

This part of your story is about what happened or at least what you remember happened. Think of it like a sequence of events captured on video and audio. It contains the words and actions, things that were said between you, facial expressions and other non-verbal behaviours. It also represents the consequences of those behaviours; how they affected you, others and the organisation.

Go back in time as far as you think is necessary and recall the first thing that was said or done that triggered the situation. Recall the context, time, location, specific words or actions. Under the column heading ‘Facts’ write down what you recall was said and done in the order you remember.

To complete the second part of the exercise click here: Difficult Conversation Audit

Telling Your Truth

When you present your version of events to the other person it’s important you position it in a way that acknowledges two things:

First, that these are your recollections of the events as they unfolded and second that you are open to the possibility you might have missed something or that they might see things differently and you’re curious about hearing their perspective.

To carry this off authentically, you’ll need to genuinely believe that it’s possible you missed something and that their perspective is as valid as yours, it’s not to say it’s right or wrong but is as equally valid as yours. Positioning it this way changes the dynamic of the conversation away from ‘being right’ and ‘winning’ to being curious and learning about difference. If you can shift your mindset you can transform the direction and outcome of the conversation.

So to sum it up, recall as best you can the specific behaviours that led to this situation unfolding. What was it they said or did and you said or did that led you to this point. Write it all down on a piece of paper, under the column heading ‘Facts’. Remember, they are not ‘The Facts’, but ‘Your Facts’, and by acknowledging that both your version and their version are equally valid will stand you in good stead for a productive conversation.

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  • Lakshmanan K

    Excellent one.  If everyone practice it in letter spirit, we can improve our relationships & results.

    • Aled

      Indeed, thanks for your comment.



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