BE4ALL: The seven “A’s” of a courageous conversation

Learn more about how to take the first step in constructively and successfully resolving conflicts/disagreements in the workplace. 

BE4ALL is a bold, multi-year effort to transform the sheet metal industry by ensuring our work environments are welcoming to all workers and that we achieve the highest standards of performance and excellence.

To make this vision a reality, BE4ALL has adopted several strategies. As a part of this effort, this feature will focus the seven components of a courageous conversation.

A courageous conversation is an exchange between two people. Usually, the dialogue is initiated in one of two situations: a) When we feel that another person has wronged us; and/or b) When we’ve done or said something (real or perceived) to wrong another person. The seven “A’s” are appropriate for disagreements or tensions around ideas, opinions, beliefs, and personalities. They’re not necessarily applicable in situations involving physical altercations, harassment, or discrimination. 

Ultimately, courageous conversations are a tool for resolving interpersonal conflicts and/or disagreements in the workplace. But, beyond this, they support us in being better human beings to one another. The following seven components can be practiced in sequence, or you can pick and choose which ones are more appropriate to your situation. They are:

Initiating a courageous conversation is hard. This is especially the case if you feel the other person is wrong OR that you will lose something (i.e., the other person will see you as “weak” or “giving in”). Therefore, it’s important to prepare yourself — mentally and emotionally — before the conversation so that you have energy to draw on for what can be a long and uncomfortable process. Preparation may include listening to music, going for a walk/run, etc.

Share with the other person at least one thing you genuinely appreciate about them. It can be something they’ve said or done, or it can be some special quality, talent or gift they have.

Share with the person ways that you may have contributed to the problem or tension. If this isn’t relevant to your situation, you can skip this step.

Share with the person ways something they may have said or done impacted you. Share the feeling of the experience, NOT your evaluation of the experience or the person.

5. ASK
Whether you were the person wronged or you wronged someone else, ASK the other person a few probing questions as a way of approaching them from a place of understanding and curiosity.

After the person shares, paraphrase or summarize what they shared by stating:

“What I think I hear you saying is …”
Affirming DOES NOT mean you agree with the person, it just means you are listening with the intent to understand.

Both people agree on a new way to move forward (i.e., “let’s agree that, in the future, we’re going to ___________.”) OR ask the person for their ideas and support on how to move the relationship forward.

Through the use of this technique, you will be able to deescalate a potential confrontation before the issue evolves into something more serious.